35. People Defending Themselves

“Conservatives have done their utmost to portray trade unions and their members as ‘the enemy within’, introducing regressive anti-worker laws to stop people defending themselves,” said Len McCluskey, general-secretary of Unite. “That is not progress; it’s giving bad bosses a free ride.”

The comment was promoted by a press article that stated,

Strike levels were close to an all-time low last year as industrial relations between workers and bosses experience a new level of understanding, well according to a report in The Daily Telegraph. [Why changes to how we work mean the ‘bad old days’ of strikes may be gone by Alan Tovey, Industry Editor. Daily Telegraph 30 May 2017]

Official data from the Office for National Statistics [ONS] show that in 2016 a total of 322,000 working days were lost because of stoppages – the eighth-lowest figure since records began in 1891.

A strike is a last resort and work place militancy reflects a weakness of the organisations that claim to represent workers. Union Unite echoed the view that to get to a stage where staff walk out, it effectively means that there has been a breakdown in communications, and also that pay remains the most common cause of industrial action.

The number of strikes was record at 101 last year. However, ONS analysis of the data reveals that instead of a large number of small scale strikes, “large-scale stoppages have become more common” like the workplace dispute of junior doctors’ grievances over changes to their contracts.

Since 2008 the impact of financial crisis and redundancy laid the ground for a long-term decline in willingness among staff to walk out over pay. Wider economic uncertainty meant workers felt they have less bargaining power and simply put up with what they saw as poor pay.

“Strikes are far less common these days and tend to be short, with going on strike always a last resort when bosses refuse to negotiate or compromise,” said Frances O’Grady, TUC general-secretary.

In the last decade, 2011 proved the worst year for labour disputes, when public sector workers staged a number of stoppages over controversial pension changes – some 1.39 million working days calculated as lost. And regardless of the demand, whenever there is a national dispute, from fringe Trotskyist groups for the TUC to get off its kneels and call a General Strike, that possibility is but a pipe dream. There is a misplaced nostalgia for we are unlikely to see a sudden surge in workers picking up placards and standing around blazing braziers as was a frequent sight in the 1970s and 1980s. Unions have seen a steady reduction in their membership for decades

Employees in professional occupations were more likely to be trade union members than other employees. Employees in the professional occupations account for 37.3% of union members, a cavet to that is new classification to compile the statistics , among other changes, moved nurses and midwives, and therapy professionals, both relatively highly unionised occupations, into the professional group.

However, the changing profile of a trade unionists is reflected in the observation that the proportion of employees who were trade union members was greater for people with a higher qualification, such as a degree, compared with those with lower level qualifications, or no qualifications. Nearly a third of university graduates would be union members such as teachers in the education sector.

In 2015, 3.80 million public sector employees belonged to a union in the UK, In the private sector, there were 2.7 million members. Current membership levels are well below the peak of over 13 million in 1979. The proportion of employees who were trade union members was at 24.7% in 2015. This is the lowest rate of trade union membership recorded since 1995.

Trade unions, like British society, has an aging membership profile with about 39% of trade union member employees aged over 50 in 2015, while only 28% of employees are in this age group. The proportion of trade union members aged below 50 has fallen since 1995, whilst the proportion aged above 50 has increased.

[Trade Union Membership 2015: Statistical Bulletin]

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/525938/Trade_Union_Membership_2015_-_Statistical_Bulletin.pdf

The Decline in Unionisation

Heavy industry, which was heavily unionised, has virtually disappeared with the switch into services. The rate of union membership in manufacturing, which has traditionally been seen as a high union membership industry, has fallen substantially in recent years to 16.8% in 2015.

The long-term trend for a much lower proportion of private sector employees who are trade union members, relative to the public sector, continues.

Many services companies are smaller businesses where employee relations tend to be informal and staff are more amenable to the company’s ethos and control and smaller businesses are more likely to strike individual pay deals than implement the corporate-union negotiated settlements. Services jobs can also be seen as more transitory, with a threat that there is a ready supply of people lining up to take positions and other jobs are available, meaning staff would rather put up with a difficult situation or simply go find a better job than go to the trouble of striking. Accommodation and food services had the lowest union membership at 3.5%.

The likelihood of belonging to a trade union varies substantially by sector. Employees in industries with higher proportions of public sector workers are more likely to belong to trade unions, including the ‘public administration and defence’ and ‘education’ industries.

Rather than huge workplaces, modern business can also tend to be more dispersed – such as a large retailer with lots of outlets each employing only a handful of staff – making it less likely for issues to spread to large portions of the workforce, taking it to a point where there is anger on such a scale to drive a ballot for industrial action. Union membership is more likely to be an insurance premium than a commitment to the collectivist solidarity philosophy. Unions are defence mechanism not vehicles for social advancement other than in the realm of pay and conditions at the workplace. It is about “People Defending Themselves”.

Employee Engagement

Grievances are also going underground . Rather than strike, workers just disengage, doing their job but without any motivation apart from getting paid.

This raises another worry: Britain’s low productivity rate:

“The persistent weakness in productivity has puzzled economists and there are many alternative theories to explain it, including: weakness in investment that has reduced the quality of equipment employees are working with; the banking crisis leading to a lack of lending to more productive firms; employees within firms being moved to less productive roles; and slowing rates of innovation and discovery. None is sufficient on its own to explain entirely what has happened, making it difficult to predict when and if productivity growth will return to pre-crisis rates of growth.”

[Daniel Harari, Productivity in the UK. House of Commons Briefing Paper. Number 06492, 27 April 2017]

It is important to note that changes in labour productivity may be driven by a number of other factors, many of which have little to do with the innate qualities or efforts of employees.

YETfun-at-work

Perhaps it is personal: “People Defending Themselves”. New technology in the office environment allows for plenty of diversion from the task at hand, a victim to click-bait interests, browsing before shopping, online bookings and the ubiquitous addiction to social media – all eat into company time.

Elsewhere, work remains social – talking about the weather, the telly, spouting recycled sport trivial – the coffee break, the paralysing drama of the printer paper jam, awaiting deliveries – all see the clock tick by and work does get done but the intensity, the rhythm of work diluted, slowed to manageable proportions. Monetary reward – pay, bonuses, etc – is the advertised currency of reward for work (supposedly as a company’s failings are seldom reflected in cuts to directors rewards) then a pay cut – albeit freeze or inflation induced – should be matched by a decline in output per hour worked as being paid less to do more has little appeal.

Understand that we should take pride that

“International comparisons of labour productivity show that the UK was ranked fifth of the G7 countries, with Germany top and Japan bottom. In 2015, UK productivity was 19 percentage points below the rest of the G7 average, the same as in 2014 and the widest productivity gap since at least 1995 (when the data series began).” Harari 2017

Read it another way: labour exploitation is less effective. Resistance to Labour being used simply as labour more successful: “People Defending Themselves”. In the ‘Command and control’ structure that employees operate – not those over-priced artisans servicing the luxury market of people with money and little taste nor those professions of creative freedom with its glided caged illusions – but in the work place where social relations are dictated by assigned roles, there the human conflict is borne – not to let the bastards grind you down. Refusing to work overtime, applying health & Safety requirements , working to contract without goodwill all impacts upon the work environment because employers need willingness and people missing legitimate work breaks, a shorter lunch, that ten minutes to finish a task. There is the resilience of resistance expressed in small acts of defiance, shaving away the working minutes in non-productive activity. The alienation from the workplace, not to let the workplace dictate who you are – me, I’m a model/ a lawyer/ a train driver/ student – not to identify with the means or mechanisms you use to acquire social substance. The company uniform is something you discard at the end of the shift. Charge your phone at work and no thought of quilt crosses your mind. It’s just one of those things, of no little consequences or another mental brick in the wall?

And, yes this was written at work.

34. On Reading JMP

Before 1988 Maoism did not exist” is JMP’s opening for his Continuity and Rupture. The bookseller in Waterstone described it as ‘niche reading’ when he failed to locate any copies. But then Foyles underlined its reputation (damm it!) by having two copies of its shelves. Indeed, JMP’s exploration of ‘philosophy in the maoist terrain’ is unfortunately a minority interest, and this post reflects one engagement with a text that implies a challenge to the existing approach to an understanding of what one had been schooled in as Mao Zedong Thought.Paris

The object is not a sematic shift, but emphasis on the significance of the anti-revisionist Marxist-Leninist politics that arose in opposition to a politics that had reached its limits. JMP may be over generous in his description of the RCLB being “temporarily able to pull the masses into its orbit” as it launch one of the first significant critique in Eurocentrism and the Communist Movement; it certainly did not feel that churning out the duplicated pages of its first edition in the 2nd floor stock room of New Era Books – its improved revised 2nd edition arguing to a newer generation, with a tighter universalist relevance.

There were, of course, references to ‘maoist’ and ‘maoism’ prior to the 1980s – these were “conceptually incoherent” associated with a vague understanding of the Chinese Revolution – a Marxism practiced by the Chinese Revolution led by Mao Zedong. Portrayed (initially by supporters and opponents alike?) as Stalinism with Chinese characteristic and limited (geographically and) historically to the first half of the 20th Century.

Inside China, Maoism was never a term promoted or sanctioned; at best, the continuity with western Marxism was expressed in the formula of Marxism-Leninism-Mao (TseTung) Zedong Thought. The idea of universalist relevance saw a vogue for the term in the 1960s/70s but many who employed it – self-identification with it – “erupted only to spectacularly disintegrate or slowly degenerate” –   20th Century International Maoism proved to be a term (or aspiration) more than a constructed movement of like-minded activists and organisations.

JMP argues that it was at the end of the 1980s – and outside of China – when Maoism began to merge as Maoism proper. The provocative birthdate is suggested as the ideological moment of rupture is given as 1993. The statements of the Peruvian revolutionaries signposted the acknowledgement and recognition as a “third stage” of revolutionary science.

[Readings: Collected Works of Communist Party of Peru: Towards Maoism, and On Marxism-Leninism-Maoism; 1993 Statement Revolutionary Internationalist Movement.]

The Communist Party of Peru (Spanish: Partido Comunista del Perú), commonly referred to as the Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso), produced a theoretical statement that is drawing a line, a boundary, signalling a perception between the previous usages of Maoism and a concept of Maoism that is supposedly new: a theoretical tendency guiding revolution in Peru.

In this account, the onus is on JMP to establish that prior to this “watershed”, those who spoke either of Mao Zedong Thought , or Maoism did not conceptually regard it in terms that had saw it as a higher stage of Marxism. The initial reaction is that it was precisely during the Cultural Revolution that Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong though was promoted, advertised and regarded in that manner.

Having identified key moments in the chrysalis process of the conceptualisation of Maoism as the third and highest stage of Marxism-Leninism, it would need further exploration, certainly as part of a summation, as how far the ideological recasting and categorization of Maoism is an innovation of the theoretical line of the Communist Party of Peru led by former professor of philosophy, Abimael Guzmán, also known by the nom de guerre Chairman Gonzalo.

The conceptualisation of Maoism as the third and highest stage of Marxism-Leninism was evident in the positions of some anti-revisionist Marxist-Leninists, and there was the self-identity as a distinct Maoist trend even without, what JMP considers, the theoretical coherence.

“Maoism” was not only identified with the Chinese Revolution but was seen as having a relevance, indeed a model for particular Third World struggles – it was in the “peripheries” that it had its strength. First World adherents and supporters would draw on aspects of their understanding of the struggle in China – key link, criticism-struggle-unity, one divides into two etc. – few adopted “People’s War” perspective – that engagement on a theoretical level was to emerge in the 21st century Maoism.

[Readings: Peking Review]

Clearly Maoism existed as a term prior to 1988, aspects of it were seen as universalist perspective – that engagement on a theoretical level was to emerge in the 21st century Maoism.

Clearly Maoism existed as a term prior to 1988, aspects of it were seen as universalist but JMP contends it did not constitute a “philosophical gaze”.

JMP: “I am interested in examining the general boundaries that have already been established by the most recent conceptual rupture of revolutionary science that labels itself Maoist.”

[Reading: Communist (Maoist) Party of Afghanistan, A Response to the RCP,USA’s May 1st 2012 letter.]

The point made is that Maoism is not simply an addition to Marxism-Leninism. Its relationship is both as building upon, and critiquing that results in a development of the science achieved through a theoretical rupture that redraws the paradigm for revolutionary advance in the new century.

Hence,

Maoism, as a theoretical terrain, is in continuity with the radical kernel of Marxism by the very fact of its theoretical rupture.”

Diversion to one – not untypical – article illustrates the point JMP is arguing.

“The great thought of Mao Tse-Tung is developed Marxism-Leninism; it is Marxism-Leninism at its highest level. It has solved a series of important problems facing the international communist movement, problems which earlier Marxist-Leninists either never encountered or having encountered left unsolved, or were unable to solve in their time. In particular, Mao Tse=Tung Thought has solved the question of continuing to make revolution and preventing the restoration of capitalism under the dictatorship of the proletariat. It has ushered in a completely new era in the development of Marxism-Leninism – the era of Mao Tsetung’s thought.”

This article reflects the excessive personal praise of the time describing Mao as “the very red sun that shines most brightly in our hearts” and places him as “the authority of the world proletarian struggle in the present era.”

Furthermore, whilst still written within the boundary of ideological continuity, it says of the individual who was Mao Zedong that:

“He has inherited, defended and developed Marxism-Leninism with genius, creatively and comprehensively and has brought it to a higher and completely new stage….. and has scale new peaks in the history of the development of Marxism.”

Again it is the personal, note the apostrophe;

“Mao Tse-Tung’s thought is precisely the theoretical basis which guides the thinking of our great, glorious and correct party … it is a universal truth that holds true for the whole world.”

Lin Piao is most associated with promoting the notion that “Mao Tse-tung’s thought is Marxism-Leninism of the era in which imperialism is heading for total collapse.”

Such sentiments and formulations were to be found throughout the heights of the Cultural revolution in China, and echoed internationally by anti-revisionists of (what was termed in America as) the new communist movement.

It was a standard view from China, and accepted outside of it by revolutionary practitioners, that

“The struggle of the world’s revolutionary people in the present era also proves that only when tasks are done in accordance with Mao Tse-tung’s thought can victory be won. For China to be prosperous and world’s people liberated, we must rely on the great, invincible thought of Mao Tse-tung.”

It was for a relatively brief period that this judgement was proclaimed in Chinese publications and towards the international communist movement. The ‘red banner of Mao Tse-tung’s thought’ was most prevalent during the ultra-left excess of the Cultural Revolution. While the thought of Mao as the “theoretical authority of the communist movement in the present era” was disseminated, indeed regarded as “our most fundamental and important support” given to the revolutions of the peoples of all countries, the guidance it provided was attributed to the Chairman alone:

“Mao Tse-tung’s thought is one and identical with Marxism-Leninism; it is Marxism-Leninism at a higher level of development. In our era, the study of Mao Tse-tung’s thought is the best way to study Marxism-Leninism.”

It is personal as Lin Piao called upon people to “learn and master Mao Tse-tung’s thought truly without fail, study Chairman Mao’s writings, follow his teachings, act according to his instructions and be his good fighters.”

Sentiments repeated by Hua Guofeng seeking to consolidated his position after Mao’s death in 1976. Sentiments that appealed to a personal loyalty rather than a theoretical canon.

The description of the “great thought of Mao Tse-tung” as a spiritual atom bomb reflected the context of the time. It was a call to unleash the political consciousness to transform society, and underpin those who proclaimed support for Mao.

That propaganda onslaught, ritualised and formulaic, ultimately failed to develop creative study and application of Mao Tse-tung’s thought because it was an instrument in the political task of “establishing absolutely authority of the great supreme commander.”

The benefit to closest-comrade-in-arms, Lin Biao, was to inherit that militarist compliance to hierarchical commands. The dissemination of the red banner of Mao Tse-tung’s thought all over China and the world may have introduced the revolutionary experience of China to those outside the country, it may have inspired revolutionary aspirations, and it may have illuminate the danger of revisionist degeneration and initiated new revolutionary upsurges – however at that time it was building through the personality cult of Mao something to overcome in the appraisal of late Mao’s theoretical contributions on classes and class struggle during the period of building socialism.

Hsinhua correspondents would frequently report on Mao Tse-tung’s thought as the “beacon light of the world revolution”. The experiences of the Chinese Revolution as recorded in Mao’s writings provided the grounding theory for the revolutionary wars in progress; indispensable textbooks for revolutionaries, the works of Mao were earnestly studied with priority given to study the thought of Mao Tse-tung’s. It is this background and context which JMP (in his prologue) refers to the underdeveloped nature and understanding of ‘Maoism’ prior to 1988.

In 1976 the memorial messages sent on the passing of Chairman Mao by foreign ML parties commonly described him as “the greatest Marxist of the contemporary era.” He was praised as the “great continuer of the cause of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin”.

  • V.G.Wilcox. Peking Review September 30th 1976

The tributes noted “of special significance has been his contribution to the theory of continuing class struggle under socialism in order to bar the door to a revival of capitalism in new forms.” – the struggle against revisionism “to preserve the purity of Marxism-Leninism theory” was equally emphasis. That attribution reflects the understanding that of world historic importance was that he guided the work of building socialism in China by “brilliantly integrating the principles of Marxism-Leninism with the practice of the Chinese revolution.” The Burmese party said of Mao that he “inherited Marxism-Leninism, defended its purity and developed it with Mao Tsetung Thought.” (The lack of apostrophe signifying an upgrade in theoretical status?) (Peking Review September 30th 1976)

Nils Holmberg, veteran communist and translator of the Swedish editions of the Selected Works of Mao TseTung, said that Chairman Mao had made very important contributions in developing Marxism-Leninism. Pal Stegian told a memorial meeting in Norway that Mao’s work “are an eternal contribution to the theory of communism.” (Peking Review 44 October 29th 1976).

The red banner of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought had been raised by the international movement, yet still seen in terms of expressing the revolutionary line of Chairman Mao. That was the Maoist paradigm in 1976.

19_19_website-red-book-12

Elsewhere “Maoism” was a term that had been used by political opponent like Trotskyists and particularly in attacks from Russian publishing houses on Mao and China’s policies such as Y. Semyonov’s The Bitter Fruit of Maoism – Cultural Revolution and Peking’s Policy in International Affairs (September 1975). But as a term, Maoism was not used, or encouraged within China, and uncommon within the international communist movement during Mao’s lifetime.

When Canadian anti-revisionist Marxist-Leninist republished the 1952 “Reader’s Guide to the Marxist Classics” they included an additional section dedicated to Mao Zedong.This volume was originally produced in 1952 for the Communist Party of Great Britain.

A new section was added to the 1980 Canadian edition on Mao Zedong Thought and a subject guide to the works of Mao Zedong.

“Today it has become clear that Mao Zedong has made significant contributions to Marxist-Leninist theory and to the practice of socialist revolution and construction… It is recognition of the importance of Mao Zedong’s contributions that the revolutionary theory of the proletariat is today called Marxism-Leninism-=Mao Zedong Thought.”

 

Likewise with the Study Handbook produced by the Canadian Communist League (Marxist-Leninist), consisted of excerpts from the works of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Mao Zedong.

“Its aim is to bring Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought to all workers who are conscious of the historical mission of their class. This science is the result of 130 years of analysis of the workers’ movement. It sums up the principle lessons and thus serves as a guide for workers in all countries in their struggle for revolution.”

It explained that

“Marxism-Leninism-Mao TseTung Thought has always developed through the struggle against revisionism, which is the attempt made by the bourgeoisie’s agents to pervert communist theory, to deform the basic principles of Marxism and have the workers’ movement follow passively behind the capitalist class.”

Of the Five Heads:5heads

“The principles they formulated are universally applicable to the concrete conditions of the revolution in every country… on the basis of their contributions communist theory is called Marxism-Leninism Mao Tsetung thought.”

In the transitional period that saw Maoism adopted as the preferred term there were the argument over whether to use Mao Zedong Thought or Maoism – particularly engaging were the contending views expressed by Indian communists. However even when adopted, the concept of Maoism was described in the following terms by CPI (ML) (People’s War),

“Marxism, Leninism and Maoism are thus not separate ideologies, but merely represent the constant growth and advancement of an integral ideology. Marxism-Leninism-Maoism is the universally applicable and scientific ideology of the proletariat.”

  • History of Marxism Leninism Maoism (2002) New Delhi : New Vistas Publication : 4

The basic premise remains that Mao Zedong Thought is an extension and development of Marxism-Leninism to the present era. This formulation was kept in the publication, Basic Course in Marxism-Leninism-Maoism republished by the Norwegian Tjen Folket in 2011, and again online in 2014 by the progressive anti-imperialist collective, Massalijn.

In the realm of internet Maoism there were declarations of “the fourth and latest stage of revolutionary science, Maoism ThirdWorldism” that emerged in the blogosphere around 2008. Associated with Monkey Smashes Heaven/ Prairie Fire (again drawing on the rich and variety maoist iconography) it initially build upon Lin Biao’s analogical strategy of the ‘countryside’ surrounding the cities underpinned by a theory12122950_1663091003932724_6146809722157539183_n of Labour aristocracy applied to the entire Global North. This view metamorphosed into the positions of the Leading Light Communist Organisation that, after advancing the argument that “to be a real Maoist today requires going beyond Mao”, came to renounce Maoism. JMP has come nowhere near spinning out of orbit like these individuals. Instead he has argued a case for a Maoism that is not rooted in a kind of seamless succession but a science that responds to the contradictions within life processes and seeks to address them. Reading Continuity and Rupture will not provide you with exam answer solutions but in its intellectual challenge, it can point you in the right direction.

 

33. Enver Praises Mao (1973)

albaniaCR68When we were friends……….

 Mao TseTung’s Birthday Celebrated in Albania

Enver Hoxha’s birthday salutations on the occasion of Mao’s 80th birthday in 1973, made references to … a great theoretician and strategist of the revolution…courageously defended the triumphant doctrine of Marxism-Leninism…. you furthered developed and creatively enriched Marxist-Leninist science in the field of philosophy, the development of the proletarian party, the strategy and tactics of the revolutionary struggle and the struggle against imperialism, and the problems of the construction of the socialist society. Your precepts on continuing the revolution under the conditions of the dictatorship , so as to carry socialist construction to final victory and bar the way to the danger of the restoration of capitalism whatever form it takes it comes from, constitute a valuable contribution, of great international value, to the theory and practice of scientific socialism. Your works are a real revolutionary education for all Marxist-Leninist and working people.”

“The Albanian communists’ and people see in you the glorious leader of the heroic Communist Party of China and of the fraternal Chinese people, the most beloved and respected friend of the Albanian people, the great Marxist-Leninist, and the tested. and unbowed fighter against imperialism, modern revisionism and Soviet social imperialism as well as against reactionaries of all shades”

hoxhachinesestudents

“You, comrade Mao Tse-tung, initiated and personally led the great proletarian cultural revolution, the triumph of which was a great victory, both nationally and internationally for Marxism-Leninism and the cause of socialism and communism. and a source of inspiration to the entire world revolutionary movement”

WHAT WAS HE SAYING IN HIS POLITICAL DIARY in 1973????

An example: In our opinion, the position which China has taken, the course which it is following in its foreign policy is neither right nor revolutionary. It is allowing moments very favourable to the revolution to go by, moments of a grave major crisis for American imperialism and Soviet social-imperialism. The peoples and the Marxist-Leninists will not forgive China for these very dangerous, very negative and harmful stands.

June 30, 1973

The People Will Not Forgive China For These Dangerous Stands. Reflections on China, Vol II 1973 — 1977 :Extracts from the Political Diary. Tirana 1979 pp53-65

http://michaelharrison.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Enver-Hoxha-Reflections-on-China-Vol-2.pdf

At the V.I Lenin Party School Party leaders and leading ideological workers of the regime came together for a seminar that illustrated the ceremonial expectations of any public display , strong on sentiments and the absence of critical inspection.

The head of the Party School, Fiqret Shehu, in her opening address, spoke of comrade Mao Tse-tung’s image as a great revolutionary leader and outstanding Marxist-Leninist theoretician, as a great strategist of the revolution and the closest and most beloved friend of our people.

Comrade Mehmet Shehu’s opening speech reflected the general respect and rhetorical high esteem Mao was held in Albania:

Comrade Mao Tse-tung’s work will shine through the centuries, it will always be a great source of inspiration to the proletariat and people of the whole world, a banner for the world-wide triumph of socialism and communism.”

AlbaniaApril68

Comrade Shehu , like any such speech had the mandatory reference to “the great, everlasting and unbreakable friendship between the Albanian people and the Chinese people, between our two parties and our two countries, on the basis of Marxism-Leninism and proletarian internationalism.”

After Mao’s death in September 1976 there was to be a deterioration in that “the steel-like proletarian friendship between the Albanian people and the Chinese people, between the Party of Labour of Albania and the Communist Party of China, between the People’s Republic of Albania and the People’s Republic of China.” China’s aid to Albania was to be unilaterally terminated by China a year after the first ideological attacks against China were published in 1977 in the official newspaper of the Party of Labour of Albania , Zeri I Popullit ‘s editorial, Theory and Practice of the Revolution .Supporters of the Albanian regime condemned the “outrageous great-power chauvinist act of the government of the People’s Republic of China in cutting off aid to the People’s Socialist Republic of Albania” and they often took the opportunity to also outlines rejection of the “theory of the three worlds”. Albanian criticism of China was especially virulent in August 1977, when President Tito visited Peking, Albania later expressed support for Vietnam in its border conflict with Cambodia, which China supported, and the Albanians sided with Vietnam in its brief border war with China.

But the seminar was held in different circumstance, so comrade Hyshi Kapo’s extensive speech contained a laudatory exploration that proclaimed,

The whole glorious history of China over these last 50 years, all the victories of world historic importance which have made the Chinese people a ‘free people, master of their own destiny, and China an impregnable fortress of socialism, are linked with the name, and with the revolutionary ideas and activity of the architect of new socialist China, Chairman Mao Tse-tung.”

The following reports were delivered at the session: Mao Tse-tung, outstanding theoretician and great revolutionary leader by Professor Sotir Manushi, and , Mao Tse-tung on contradictions and the importance of knowing and solving then correctly in revolutionary activity by Dr. Servet Pelllumbi.

Similar sessions were organised at the State university of Tirana and the higher institutions of the country. The 8 Nëntori Publishing House [November 8] prepared and put on sale the new book “On philosophy, art and culture. This volume includes selected pieces from comrade Mao Tse-tung’s works.

The main political speeches were published as an English language supplement to the journal, Albania Today.

AlbaniaToday-1973-06-Sup | Albania Today No.6 1973 Supplement

The 80th Anniversary of Mao TseTung’s Birthday Celebrated in Albania

32. America’s Maoist Mushrooms

Observers of the revolutionary Left in the USA saw around 2016 a flourishing internet presence by the emergence of nearly a dozen collectives in the U.S. which aspire to promote Maoist politics. The newly emerging forces of mainly student and young people organising in local collectives . Far greater details and named individuals are discussed in the polemical documents from the myriad of organisations that have sprung up throughout the US. This post provides the broad contour of developments and issues that have engaged these newly emerging Maoist forces.

NCP(OC) to MCG & beyond

The founding congress of the East coast based New Communist Party (Organising Committee) had been held in early 2013. It described itself dramatically  as “inside the belly of the U.S. imperialist beast”,  a new group of US-based communists established to struggle for the construction of a genuine proletarian revolutionary party guided by the theory of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism and equipped with the basic programme of socialist revolution. untitled

These new Maoists drew upon the symbols and iconography of the Chinese Cultural revolution. Clearly internationalist in outlook, it expressed its desire “to learn from the revolutionary and peoples’ struggles presently in India, Nepal, Peru, the Philippines, Turkey, and other countries”.

The Congress Report (released May 1st) stated, “Delegates began with a sober assessment of the present numbers and minimal influence of communist revolutionaries among the proletariat and oppressed masses in the US.” The NCP (OC) identified the necessity for “the coalescence of the dispersed advanced elements of the class into a revolutionary party”. It clearly saw the need to build the party, and it had national aspirations: “Rather than engaging in wishful thinking for a future party to arise spontaneously out of the mass struggles, every communist has the responsibility to immediately take up and share the effort in the central task of party construction. This is possible only with the organized accumulation of subjective forces for a proletarian revolutionary party guided by MLM.”

It placed its birth within the context of “the decisive defeat of the 1960s-1970s wave of class and nationality struggles. The New Communist Movement, unable to produce a genuine proletarian revolutionary party or at least set the course for the construction of such a party, was co-opted into the left-wing of the state apparatus and dissolved into today’s brokers of capital in Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs). Fragments of the New Communist Movement also ended up in self-marginalization, as a result of their lack of a mass line practice. Other leading elements of the nationality struggles, as well as groups of anti-imperialist guerrillas, without a clear guiding theory, proletarian party, political strategy for revolution, practice of mass line, and military strategy for People’s War were separated from the masses and easily smashed by the state, leaving in their wake only a scattering of prisoner support committees.” [ Document | Political Resolution, April 30th 2013]

Drawing upon the conceptual heritage expounded most systematically upon in Moufawad-Paul’s Continuity And Rupture and Marxism Leninism Maoism and Mao Tse Tung Thought are not the same by Comrade Ajith , the organisation’s self-identification argued that “to be a Marxist-Leninist-Maoist is not to ‘add up’ the achievements of Marx, Lenin and Mao. Rather, MLM draws out lessons, in the form of ruptures, from the practical experience of the proletariat and the people, concentrated in the events of the Paris Commune, the October Revolution and the Chinese Revolution, in particular the sequence of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. In the uniform cloth of history, these events constitute knots of accumulated and intensified contradictions.” There was a conscious stress on the ideological basis for guiding the organisation’s practice, and within the year the founding text, Principles of Unity, was criticised for containing :

…an empiricist distortion of Maoism, in which we conceived Marxism-Leninism-Maoism as a simple and undifferentiated addition of the various historical achievements of Marx, Lenin, and Mao. This descriptive—that is, ideological—account of Maoism …. We are now approaching the problem of constructing a genuine theoretical concept of Maoism via the opposite path, namely: what are the ruptures through which Marxism-Leninism-Maoism is constituted?     [Document | Maoist Communist Group Founding Statement 2014]

ncp lc

IDENTITY POLITICS

In an echo of the “Fight Revisionism, Fight Self” subjective line that was evident in the Cultural Revolution, and the recognition that the “personal is political”, the organisation adopted resolution against patriarchy, and ratified its Principles of Unity upholding a proletarian feminist position, and a resolution on the queer struggle.” Its involvement in identity politics and around the campaign for Trans rights identified the continuing tread of western Maoists involvement in the “personal is political” that initially surfaced in the Ninteen Sixties Women’s Movement and Gay Rights campaigning. The caveat to support was that while “identity politics names real forms of oppression, because it lacks a materialist analysis, identity politics cannot formulate an effective practice to challenge the basis of oppression. Thus it lapses into liberalism, proscribing recognition and reform where we need revolutionary advance.” Course_Correction (2016)]

In 21st Century Maoism the intensity of the line struggle was more to the fore and given an ideological importance that had been underplayed in earlier organisations and parties. The inability to address the liberatory rhetoric with the practice of individuals came to paralysis and split the new Maoist trend in the US.  [ The positions against patriarchy were explained in a text accompanying the Anti-Patriarchy Rectification Campaign, July 13, 2013: and Self-Criticism and Summation on Patriarchy March 2014.  ]

Following the First Congress, the NCP(OC) was involved in two major contradictions;

that with a student organisation it influenced, and within ten months, the organisation “expelled multiple founding members in multiple cities for male chauvinism. The expulsions and related discussions consumed much of the internal activity of the organization. This rendered the central organs and particular units otherwise dysfunctional for substantial periods of time”.

The error of commandism was  said to be applied with the New York based Revolutionary Student Coordinating Committee, although this was explained as: “the problem of our lack of effectiveness was referable to a bureaucratic-technical separation rather than so-called ‘militarization’ or ‘authoritarian control.’”  [ On Rectifying Past errors: Document by the New York City branch of the NCP(OC) Regarding the recent split in our organisation. March 2014]

Revolutionary Student Coordinating Committee RSCC Document – was founded in February 2012 as an organization uniting revolutionary-minded youth and student activists throughout the City University New York’s 24 colleges and graduate schools located across New York City’s five boroughs. It identified as an anti-capitalistic, anti-imperialist and Proletarian Feminist organization. Its activism included CUNY student protesters filmed confronting former four-star General and Director of the CIA, David Petraeus on the streets in September 2013. In the midst of internal patriachical struggles, the RSCC secretariat disintegrated as four out of five members got suspended from CUNY. It dissolved in April 2016.

In February 2014 a faction resigned its membership in the New Communist Party (Organizing Committee). It charged the NCP(OC) leadership with an inability to resolve the issues without reverting to a bureaucratic suppression of the isues e.g. “an ex-member of the OC harassed several Maoists in the US, for which the OC only issued apologies to the victims they were favorable to, neglecting to take responsibility and apologize to those they personally disliked”. The party building orientation and exercise of mass line was set aside for “it acted as a clandestine organization and objectively set on the path of building a militarized party”. There were charges bad political practices, of violating democratic procedure and respect for organisational independence e.g. “An OC member sat in on and participated in an entire RSCC meeting without being a member with democratic rights in the organization.” The contradictions between those, who would work as the Liaison Committee, and the NCP(OC) had been “careful to identify the principal contradiction so as to avoid making these mistakes in the future. The issue is that the mass leaders, all of proletarian background, were subjected to the incorrect line of the formal leadership, who are of petit-bourgeois backgrounds. While we all constitute the vanguard of the proletariat, our social classes will inform our political lines. Thus, the leadership put into command the politics of a Gonzaloite deviation (which failed in Peru).”            

[Preliminary Statement of the NCP(LC) Regarding The Split With The NCP(OC) March 7th 2014]

Gonzaloite Deviation?

March 2014 , Maosoleum website declared itself an organ of the New Communist Party (Liaison Committee), NCP(LC) Documents “ formed after a split with the NCP(OC) on the basis of a line struggle between a Gonzaloite deviation and Maoism proper… We now span several cities and are leading mass work in NYC guided by Marxism-Leninism-Maoism through our student mass organization, the  Revolutionary Student Coordinating Committee (RSCC) and internet mass organization, Maosoleum.” There was National Liaison between the NYC Branch, Kansas City and Red Guards – Los Angeles.

Liaison Committee was said to be formed due to fundamental differences over the question of party building: “Our main difference was that whereas the OC chose to pursue a path of clandestinity with an insular focus, we argued for a need to be open to the masses and to have an outward focus to uniting the advanced.”  NCP (LC) Document TOWARDS A MAOIST PARTY

When challenged it was the PCP who first put forward Maoism as a higher stage of Marxism, and were struggling for a decade for the RIM and later others to take that position, so “What exactly do you mean by gonzaloite deviation?”

maosoleum replied, We have described Gonzaloism thus:

1) Commandism – “Jefatura” line

2) Armed Monolithic Party – Party argued as clandestine by nature under all conditions and the armed struggle as the primary organizational goal of the revolutionary party – no separation between army and party, and no separation between politics and gun, but a unified command. This is opposed to Mao’s “politics in command” perspective, and Lenin’s criticism of Blanquism, which is the origin of the idea of the unification of the military and political.

3) Unified People’s War – the Hoxhaist perspective, counterpoised to protracted people’s war – we touch upon this in our article “What is Protracted People’s War?”

4) Third period revivalism without the actual social force – a form of left opportunism. Most clear in the declaration of governments like Venezuela’s as social-fascist.

Interestingly, Chairman Gonzalo rejected the universality of Pensamiento Gonzalo making it clear it was an application of M-L-M to Peruvian conditions and nothing more, and indeed Gonzaloism is more identified with the Proseguir line in the PCP, the line that Gonzalo and Asumir rejected.

While the internal matters of the PCP are their and only theirs, we do feel that the application of these principles as universals is an error. Of course, some of the Gonzaloites deny they are Gonzaloites, but for us it shorthand for that set of politics which we consider not to be a correct application of M-L-M to the conditions of the USA today.

Gonzalo and the PCP stand in our history as shining examples of struggle, but ultimately, as we point out, defined principally by historical failure. While even in historical failure there are successful and positive experiences, it is dogmato-revisionism to embrace without summation and criticism those experiences. A full summation of the Peruvian experience has not been made, but we have made a partial summation of its application to our conditions, and identified Gonzaloism as a left opportunist deviation, and we would be liberal if we didn’t combat it.

PAPER POLICIES Vs REAL LIFE PROBLEMS

A critique of the internal life of the NCP(OC) summarised the dysfunctionality of the organisation and political liberalism:

The NCP(OC) has been decimated and rendered invalid as a real Organizing Committee, and instead has alienated and isolated itself from the masses, including the masses of women, queers, and other people directly oppressed by patriarchy, not principally because it incorrectly handles the contradictions among the people, but because it has assumed a line of whateverism and commandism in its internal functioning, refuse to make self-criticism in good faith, and uses the communist struggle against patriarchy as an opportunist shield to avoid dealing with all other questions, including the patriarchal behavior on the part of its leadership on the basis of alleged allegiance to proletarian feminism.

[NCP(LC) A response to the NCP(OC): Gender Whateverism is not Proletarian Feminism. March 2014 ]

The NY Branch was said to have sought to promote its initial admonitions against patriarchal behaviour, issued in 2014 as the correct basis for resolving the contradictions that surfaced in the LC prior to its dissolution. [NCP (OC) “Self-Criticism and Summation on Patriarchy,” March 5, 2014.]

The remnant of the NCP(OC) quickly become rebadged as the Maoist Communist Group. From its perspective, the primary contradiction driving the split of the “Liaison Committee” from the New Communist Party-Organizing Committee (NCP-OC), which led to the formation of the Maoist Communist Group (MCG), was the refusal of the LC to accept the expulsion of individuals guilty of misogynist violence. Clearly, in the experiences of the NCP(LC) and MCG(NY) was illustrated the phenomenon of self-declared leaders of the movement , divorced from the actual needs of organizations and of the class struggle. For a while the NCP(Liaison Committee) seemed to be the more relevant, effective organization. However, after a polemic authored by an autonomous Marxist-Leninist-Maoist collective based in Texas, the Red Guards AustinRed Guards Austin Documents We Will Not Integrate into a Burning House: Polemic on Bad Gender Practice in the Liaison Committee for a New Communist Party (NCP-LC) April 2016, it became clear that the some members of the Secretariat were clearly guilty of sexual assault while others covered for them. It came out the organization was being run in a commandist, patriarchal, and dogmatic direction. This formed only the most apparent aspect of a fundamentally reactionary and patriarchal political and ideological line, which resulted in the implosion of the Liaison Committee. The NCP(Liaison Committee) disbanded.

In April 2016, following the dissolution of the New Communist Party – Liason Committee (NCP-LC), the Boston and Richmond branches of the Maoist Communist Group (MCG) published a document titled “The Externalization of the Anti-Revisionist Struggle is the Negation of Proletarian Politics”. Although this document was an attempt to sum up the disagreements that the Boston and Richmond branches had developed with the New York branch, further criticism from Boston MCG of the Richmond contribution to the joint text drew attention to its opposition to ‘Left Adventurism’ and concern of drawing upon the anti-maoist politics of the Brigate Rosse.

[The_Externalization  and   Self-Criticism: Unprincipled Struggle and ‘The Externalization’ Piece July 2016]

Following these experiences, the NCP (OC) was dissolved upon the founding of the Maoist Communist Group, the “new name reflects the central task of the moment: ideological consolidation, and in particular, the forging of a principled unity regarding what we mean by ‘Maoism.’ Only in this way can we lay the foundation on which a Maoist Communist Party can be built.” MCG in action : “Our tactical slogan, Struggle Committees Everywhere!, guides our mass work. We support the organization of struggle committees – autonomous people’s organizations – in neighborhoods, buildings, workplaces and schools, everywhere that the people are engaged in struggles against the class enemy. We seek to unite the broad masses in mass organizations under proletarian leadership. The development of the advanced into communist cores will form the basis of a future party.” https://maoistcommunistgroup.com/about-mcg/

dot-commie

To summarise , and draw upon Revleft cyberchat : it suggested that while it may have appeared that the work of NCP(OC) and -(LC) was leading the development of Maoist politics in the US, the adoption of Maoist theory had gained momentum beyond what either of those organisations had accomplished, as many of the self-identified communists out of this new generation were also self-identified Maoists.

The largest Maoist presence was in NYC however their network of mass organizations and fronts extended far beyond. RSCC Philly had a network of probably around 30-40 people in its various organizations (SJP, Students Without Borders) while it had a core membership of about a dozen people. NYC RSCC alone had 40 members which commanded the SJP’s and SWB along with a number of other organizations and network, at their height the total amount of students in organizations controlled by the NYC branch was at least 100 probably more. The Red Guards in Austin, LA and also the Kansas City Progressive Youth Organization was affiliated with them. Saying it was one of the largest US party building attempts in the 21st century is not inaccurate.

The split between LC & MCG saw repudiation of NCP(OC) practice by both organisations, as well as polemical criticism by the city collectives. A Summation of the Kansas City Revolutionary Collective’s Experience with the Former NCP(LC) was published as Bury the Ashes .

It may be sad that the NCPs are gone, but given the behaviour of some of the leadership, the organisations needed to die and it is clear that the Maoist movement lives on without them. While there may be no single Maoist national organization,  there are developing organizations in different parts of the country: the Progressive Youth Organizations in Kansas City [ StP Kansas City Document ] or St Louis (both founded by Maoists), or the Red Guards in LA and Texas. Although relationships between these groups have seen deterioration with polemical exchanges between Red Guards Austin and  Saint Louis Revolutionary Collective .

The Red Guards Austin do not seem to have many problems with misogyny but within RSCC and the LC-NCP it more or less allowed people with enough charismatic authority to claim a mastery of feminism while very few people were educated in what misogny actually looked like on an intrapersonal level. For example there were constant comments from the male comrades about how the woman comrades “Weren’t politically developed enough” . One Philly RSCC comrade noted that although RSCC had near gender parity (for those not familiar, a close to 50/50 ratio of men and woman) strangley the woman comrades would almost never talk. In an observation – not restricted to the US left experience – the reluctance to talking in political circumstances because of male cultural dominance. It is not an uncommon remark for ex-rscc woman to make.

The Red Guards Austin operate a Serve the People programme which consists in providing people free things and trying to get them to read communist literature. When described as red charity, RGA comrades will respond that it is all quite political and that also they interview residents to ask what their concern is.

The anti-gentrification work targets small business owners who are perceived as gentrifiers for example they are targeting a cafe for offering cat cuddling services.

Red Guards Los Angles has similar efforts and have similar practice in that they have Serve the People programs and their anti-gentrification work “Save Boyle Heights” which largely consists in disrupting art venues which open up in the area and propagandizing against “bourgeois art” and artists.

 RGLA , like other groups elsewhere are challenging the settled Left – the youthful idealism, energy and crass militancy and ideological fervour is reminiscent of their role models from the Cultural Revolution , and they evoke similar responses. Hence the ‘Right To rebel’ entitlement to challenge existing politically forces e.g. the political attacks in Boyle Heights expressed in the article Be with the people, stand against Carlos Montes! By Red Guards – Los Angeles:

“Long-time Chicano activist, former Brown Beret, current member of Centro Community Service Organization and supporter or member of Freedom Road Socialist Organization (Fight Back) (FRSO-FB), Carlos Montes has repeatedly attacked members and supporters of Red Guards – Los Angeles (RGLA) through slander, libel, consistent snitch-jacketing (which appears to be standard protocol within FRSO-FB) and even sending his supporters to physically intimidate our supporters and wreck RGLA-affiliated events or actions.”

One cybergossip opinion was that “They are active that is no doubt and they orient towards the correct people, the working class neighborhoods of Austin. However their political work is crude volunteerism maintained by hyper discipline which I can not imagine is healthy. Some of these comrades do political work from 8 in the morning till 6 or 7. All work and no play does a good gonzaloite make apparently. Speaking of such I’d argue that most of their volunteerism stems from their gonzalo admiration. All of their organizations are bent to propagating towards people and recruiting them yes but I don’t see attempts at organizing the working poor. Organizing on behalf of them yes, by giving them free food and harassing gentrifies but not organizing them into tenant unions, solidarity networks, trade unions, or any other form of organizations where average people fight for their issues by themselves for themselves.”

Maoist Communist Group, the other attempt at building a Maoist Party. Unlike the LC-NCP and to a lesser extent the Red Guards and even a lesser extent the Progressive Youth Organisations, they are quite quiet about themselves. The other branches accused them of not communicating with them: “ the NYC chaps are a bit recluse”.  Yet in their defence, the  largest concentration of members in NYC MCG did put a great deal of emphasis on summing up experience, engaging in protracted mass work, and forging a mass political line out of that mass work, rather than simply undertaking propaganda around a pre-existing political line.  see Maoist Communist Group’s Three Documents that briefly reviews the split.

 The MCG Richmond branch had ran the now defuncted website blog signalfire.org that publicised  struggles worldwide, particularly the CPI(M) in India, and were involved in prison support work . And the MCG Boston branch evolved into “Mass Proletariat” Mass Proletariat Document . It published a document which was a veiled jab at Red Guard Austin. RGA responded and they have remained quiet ever since disdaining online communication as they do.

Other city collectives such as Kansas City Revolutionary Collective self-identify as Maoist propaganda group. This is the cadre formation that formed after the dissolution of the LC. Previously the Progressive Youth Organization was led by a person who was supposed to be the local liaison to the national LC although the LC did not have a branch in Kansas.

May 1st, 2016.

“Today we are excited to announce the formation of a new Marxist-Leninist-Maoist collective in the Kansas City metropolitan area: The Kansas City Revolutionary Collective (KCRC). This is no small announcement as Kansas City has been without a Communist movement for some time now.”

The St Louis Progressive Student Organization  formed a Revolutionary Collective instead of an Red Guard grouping. It is suggested that the choice of group name partly reflects a political orientation in that ‘Revolutionary collectives ‘ are perceived as generally not holding as high an esteem for President Gonzalo as the Red Guard Austin and Red Guard LA have. The Red Guards – Philadelphia even include an excerpt from the Fundamental Documents issued by the Communist Party of Peru in 1988, along with Long Live Marxism-Leninism-Maoism! as representing the basis for ideological unity of Red Guards – Philadelphia.

Still, other third stage Marxism-Leninism-Maoism formations are appearing in TacomaTacoma Maoist Collective Document] Queen City [ Queen City Maoist Collective Document] and Tampa [Tampa Maoist CollectiveDocument] While these groups are small in membership and reach, they are active groups facing up to the challenge of class struggle in modern America; as yet it is probably too early to claim a new Maoist tide is rising in the US, but the resistance is growing.

 

 

APPENDIX : NCP(OC) 2013 Anti-Patriarchy Rectification Campaign

Like other bourgeois and reactionary ideologies that must be continuously defeated through two-line struggle, the patriarchal values and male chauvinist practices that dominate this society have their reflection inside the communist movement and within communist organizations. They must be confronted and overcome through class struggle, inner-organization struggle, and inner-struggle. Like those who “wave the red flag to oppose the red flag,” groups, tendencies, and individuals can pose intellectually as feminists while at the same time failing to politicize women, commodifying and objectifying women, and engaging in abusive male chauvinist behavior.

Maoists are not afraid of criticism. Truthful criticism from others should be embraced without anger, in order to strengthen oneself, to improve one’s practice, and to better serve the people and the proletarian revolution. Self-criticism should be made openly and willingly whenever one has done wrong, without prompting by comrades and the masses. There is no place for the individualist ego, a belief in one’s own self-importance that throws up a defensive barrier in the face of truthful criticism, refuses to conduct genuine self-criticism and hides one’s mistakes, and evades rectification.

Practicing criticism and self-criticism, communists in general are guided by the principle that we do not fear criticism “because we are Marxists, the truth is on our side, and the basic masses, the workers and peasants, are on our side” (Mao Zedong).

For our anti-patriarchy rectification campaign, the NCP (OC) in particular is guided by our Resolution Against Patriarchy stating: “We call upon communists who have made patriarchal errors in their lives to carry out honest accounting, self-criticism, and rectification of their mistakes.”

In the inner-organization struggle and inner-struggle against patriarchy, we have noticed several manifestations of liberalism that must be identified and rooted out. We point these out here because they prevail among many communists in the US and are also by no means exclusive to communists.

-Failing to criticize male chauvinism among comrades when it appears that there are no immediate political consequences for lack of criticism or that there are negative social consequences for making criticisms.

-Consistently giving lower priority to the struggle against patriarchy, especially to the inner-struggle to transform oneself in practice into a proletarian feminist, even though this is a central and strategic question for the socialist revolution in the US. The communist movement in this country largely exists as a scattering of committees and advanced individuals. In such a landscape, unremolded male chauvinist thinking and practice in even a single individual has an exaggerated effect and can function as an obstacle to the immediate advance of the movement.

-Discussing the need for revolutionary women’s organizations in the abstract, or pointing to women’s mass organizations in other countries as models of what need to be built in the US, when the main problem in a particular situation centers instead on the thinking and practice of individual communists. This involves reducing the women’s question from a political matter into simply an organizational matter. It is an easy way to avoid the difficult process of reflecting on individual beliefs and actions, their origins in social practice and life experiences, and what needs to be done to consciously transform them.

-Posturing as a militant against women’s oppression and even verbalizing extreme positions when there is a broad injustice in society against women, but becoming guarded when one’s own practice is questioned or one’s own patriarchal privileges are at stake.

-Resting content with areas of political work that have over a period of many years achieved little to nothing in the development of women’s participation and leadership as communists. Justifying this prolonged stagnation with the notion that politics is traditionally an arena for men of the ruling classes and that it will take a long time to change this situation, failing to recognize that Maoists struggling in far more unfavorable conditions have made far greater advances.

-Failing to study the Marxist position on the women’s question, despite years of being a communist and gaining a theoretical and historical grasp of many other subjects.

-Resting content with having a familiarity with various contemporary feminist theories, which have little to do with the mobilization, organization, and politicization of the masses of toiling women from a Maoist perspective. Believing that theoretical familiarity with different feminist trends makes one a feminist in practice. Paying lip service to feminism while still using male chauvinist language.

-Promoting images of women engaged in militant struggles far away in other countries, but doing little to nothing to develop the capacity of the women around oneself to take up more and better political work.

-Viewing organizational work, planning, and logistics as “bureaucratism,” preferring informality in their place. Using social settings for political strategizing and decision-making, leading to a “boy’s club” of the self-selected. Consistently failing to follow through on organizational tasks in a timely fashion and being unable to meet deadlines. Consistently conducting work in a frenzied and last-minute manner, without the advance preparations necessary for those who have little experience in political work, have domestic responsibilities, etc. to become full participants.

-Finally, using the process of rectification, and its emphasis on remolding rather than strictly punitive organizational measures (e.g. suspension, expulsion), as a way to in fact evade rectification.

Each of these manifestations of liberalism must be identified by communists and uprooted through inner-organization struggle and inner-struggle. Some of them are likely to be familiar to other revolutionaries, such as anarchists and revolutionary nationalists. Problems of liberalism are compounded by amateurishness, a major shortcoming among communists in the US, many lacking developed experience in revolutionary struggle.

This is not an exhaustive list. It addresses only some of the main types of liberalism among communists and within communist organizations. It is not meant to assess the contradictions confronted in mass work among women, which have their own particularities and deserve a separate summation in their own right, investigating for example how the notion of “sisterhood” in capitalist society often covers up the reality of competitive individualism among women of the oppressed classes and determining how to fight against this.

As its first major internal campaign, the NCP (OC) carries out its Anti-Patriarchy Rectification Campaign to strengthen our organization along the line of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism and proletarian feminism. It involves regular criticism and self-criticism that examines individual thinking and practice, behavior in personal relationships, the impact of patriarchal values and male chauvinism on our lives from childhood on, the division of domestic work, and the division of different types of organizational work, e.g. administrative work vs. theoretical work. It also involves a renewed focus in the fields of theory, propaganda, agitation, and struggles on the strategic importance of the battle for women’s emancipation.

As stated in the Resolution Against Patriarchy of our founding congress, “Women of the exploited and oppressed classes must be politicized and organized into a proletarian feminist movement. A revolutionary movement of women must emerge to play a decisive role in the struggles of the proletariat and the oppressed masses, and these struggles must make themselves into indomitable weapons for women’s emancipation.” None of this can be achieved if the initial accumulation of forces is carried out on a basis that allows patriarchal values and male chauvinism to fester and does not continuously wage struggle against liberalism in this area.

  •  

31. Cambodia Declassified

The release of historic American Intelligence  files provides a snapshot of the American intelligence estimates for Cambodia. These files are less descriptions of what is happening and more analysis of what impact and possibilities the situation has for American state interests. They contribute to framing policy responses.

As Wikileaks exposure illustrates, these “Intelligence estimates” are often of a standard reflected in more public journalistic and academic output. The nexus of exchange of information between these overlapping worlds of journalism, scholarship and espionage, playing off each other in the search for foreign news and information, and the many individuals whose employment has travelled between them, would underline the symbiotic relationships that quietly exists between. They constantly talk together. The exchange of information occurs at all levels from a charity workers’ briefing in the Foreign Office to discreet enquires made during breaks at conferences and seminars. Governments have sought to foster extremely close connections with the press. This contact ranges from manipulation, often in the guise of “exclusive” access to “insider” anonymous sources; to deeper connections and infiltrations.

For instance, the French journalist Roger Auque, and France’s Ambassador to Eritrea, posthumously came out as a Mossad agent http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4627312,00.html  .

And in 1987 the South African truth panel exposes how apartheid twisted white media Journalists acted as spies, informants, PR men for racist regime in the on-going battle for “hearts and minds”.

A decade earlier, after leaving The Washington Post, where he uncovered the Watergate scandal working with Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein researched the relationship between the CIA and the media during the Cold War for Rolling Stone magazine [“The CIA and the Media” October 20, 1977 http://carlbernstein.com/magazine_cia_and_media.php ]. More than 400 American journalists, including reporters for The New York Times, Associated Press and Reuters, doubled as CIA operatives providing a full range of clandestine services — from simple intelligence-gathering to serving as go-betweens with spies in Communist countries.

We know that Kim Philby, the Soviet double agent, was placed in Beirut by MI6 British intelligence as correspondent for three respectable London media outlets: The Times, The Economist, and The Observer.

And the reporting duties of the Soviet TASS agency and China’s Xinhua may extend beyond the newsworthy. Following the Revolution of April 25, 1974, several Portuguese journalists had reportedly collaborated as Soviet spies, with some KGB agents disguised as journalists from Izvestia or from the Tass and Novosti news agencies.

As a US Congressional committee reported in the early 1970’s, “Full-time correspondents for major U.S. publications have worked concurrently for the CIA, passing along information received in the normal course of their regular jobs and even, on occasion, traveling to otherwise non-newsworthy areas to acquire data.”

The agency also had stringers and other freelancers who collected information and rumors and planted stories in foreign media that were fed into the international news traffic and sometimes appeared in U.S. print and electronic outlets.

Among the Wikileaks files is an American embassy report on Swedish Ambassador KAJ BJORK, visit in early 1976 to PHNOM-PENH at the invitation of the Cambodian government, supplemented by the journalistic comments of Toronto Globe and Mail’s reporter ROSS MUNRO. The “secret cable” notes: WE HAVE OBTAINED ON CONFIDENTIAL BASIS FROM TORONTO GLOBE AND MAIL’S ROSS MUNRO COPY OF HIS SEVERAL REPORTS BASED ON TAPE RECORDED INTERVIEW WITH SWEDISH AMBASSADOR TO PEKING KAJ BJORK, ONE OF SEVERAL PEKING-BASED DIPLOMATS JUST RETURNED FROM VISIT TO CAMBODIA. BJORK HAS REPUTATION AS SOLID OBSERVER AND MUNRO IS UNUSUALLY ABLE AND CAREFUL JOURNALIST.  [https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/1976PEKING00398_b.html ]

Is it any different today?

So any release of historic files should bring few surprises as the broad strokes are known; the devil is in the nuances and the use the analysis is put too. A declassified intelligence briefing on the simmering border war between Cambodia and Vietnam in July 1978 contained little that could not have been found in a close reading of the mainstream media e.g.

CAMBODIA IN THE SINO-VIETNAMESE DISPUTE
Date: July 25 1978

ORIGIN INR – Bureau of Intelligence and Research, Department of State

1.FOLLOWING IS INR ANALYSIS OF JULY 21 FOR YOUR INFORMATION.

2.CONCLUSIONS

CAMBODIA’S XENOPHOBIC LEADERS ARE CONVINCED THAT THEY ARE IN A STRUGGLE FOR SURVIVAL WITH THEIR POWERFUL VIETNAMESE NEIGHBOR, AND THUS THEY LOOK TO CHINA, THEIR ONLY REAL FRIEND, FOR SUPPORT. VIETNAM NOW SEEMS COMMITTED TO THE DESTRUCTION OF THE POL POT REGIME, AND IT IS QUESTIONABLE HOW FAR THE CHINESE WILL GO TO SAVE IT.

  1. REASONS FOR THE CONFLICT

THE PRESENT CAMBODIAN-VIETNAMESE BORDER WAR HAS LONG ANTECEDENTS. THE CAMBODIAN COMMUNISTS SHARE THE TRADITIONAL CAMBODIAN HOSTILITY TOWARD VIETNAM AND FEAR OF VIETNAMESE DOMINATION. –IN 1951 THE INDOCHINA COMMUNIST PARTY, ESTABLISHED BY HO CHI MINH, SPLIT INTO SEPARATE VIETNAMESE, CAMBODIAN, AND LAO COMPONENTS. A SECRET VIETNAMESE PARTY DIRECTIVE OF THAT TIME STATED THAT HANOI “RETAINS THE RIGHT OF SUPERVISION OVER THE ACTIONS OF THE FRATERNAL PARTIES OF LAOS AND CAMBODIA.” –SINCE THE MID-FIFTIES, HANOI HAS BEEN TRAINING SYMPATHETIC CAMBODIAN COMMUNISTS TO BECOME HANOI’S HENCHMEN IN CAMBODIA.

–AFTER THE FALL OF SIHANOUK IN 1970, HANOI’S ARMED FORCES BOTH FOUGHT IN CAMBODIA AND ORGANIZED A REVITALIZED CAMBODIAN COMMUNIST PARTY APPARATUS. BY 1972, HOWEVER, POL POT, CAMBODIA’S PRESENT PRIME MINISTER AND PARTY SECRETARY, WAS WARY OF HANOI’S OBJECTIVES AND BEGAN THE FIRST OF MANY PURGES TO REMOVE ALL PRO-VIETNAMESE CAMBODIAN CADRE. LIMITED FIREFIGHTS EVEN BROKE OUT BETWEEN VIETNAMESE AND CAMBODIAN COMMUNIST FORCES.

  1. IN THE AFTERMATH OF THE 1975 VICTORY, THE CAMBODIAN COMMUNISTS TOOK THE INITIATIVE TO ASSERT SOVEREIGNTY OVER DISPUTED TERRITORY AND RAPIDLY MOVED ARMED FORCES INTO BORDER AREAS AND OFFSHORE ISLANDS. THE VIETNAMESE RESPONDED WITH AIR AND GROUND ATTACKS AND TOOK POSSESSION OF SEVERAL CONTESTED ISLANDS. FOR THE NEXT TWO YEARS BOTH COUNTRIES SETTLED INTO AN UNEASY RELATIONSHIP, SUPERFICIALLY FRATERNAL, BUT FREQUENTLY PUNCTUATED BY ARMED CLASHES ALONG THE BORDER.
  2. THE MILITARY SITUATION

FIGHTING ESCALATED SHARPLY IN THE LATE SPRING AND SUMMER OF 1977, HOWEVER, AND IN DECEMBER OF LAST YEAR VIETNAMESE FORCES ADVANCED INTO EASTERN CAMBODIA ON A LARGE FRONT TO DESTROY KHMER UNITS MENACING VIETNAM’S BORDERS. VIETNAMESE FORCES WITHDREW IN JANUARY 1978 AND REMAINED LARGELY DEFENSIVE THROUGH JUNE WHILE CAMBODIAN UNITS MADE FREQUENT PENETRATIONS INSIDE VIETNAM, SOMETIMES UP TO 30 KILOMETERS.

  1. IN JUNE, VIETNAM, FRUSTRATED BY CONTINUING CAMBODIAN ATTACKS, LAUNCHED AIR AND GROUND FORCES ON ANOTHER OFFENSIVE IN EASTERN AND NORTHEASTERN CAMBODIA. VIETNAMESE UNITS NOW OCCUPY SECTIONS OF KOMPONG CHAM, SVAY RIENG, AND RATANAKIRI PROVINCES JUST INSIDE CAMBODIA, BUT CAMBODIAN FORCES HAVE CONTINUED TO COUNTERATTACK VIGOROUSLY AND ARE STILL ABLE TO PENETRATE VIETNAM.
  2. THE MOST RECENT VIETNAMESE OPERATION APPEARS TO HAVE LIMITED OBJECTIVES SIMILAR TO THAT IN DECEMBER. IT DIFFERS FROM PAST RETALIATORY ATTACKS, HOWEVER, IN THAT VIETNAM IS CALLING FOR THE OVERTHROW OF THE POL POT REGIME AND IS TRAINING AND ASSISTING “PATRIOTIC” CAMBODIAN INSURGENTS APPARENTLY OPERATING THROUGHOUT CAMBODIA’S EASTERN REGION.
  3. VIETNAM HAS 80,000-100,000 TROOPS DEPLOYED ALONG THE BORDER, WHILE CAMBODIA’S ENTIRE ARMED FORCES MAY NUMBER ONLY 100,000. ALTHOUGH CAMBODIA ACQUIRED LONGRANGE FIELD GUNS FROM CHINA IN EARLY 1978, THERE DOES NOT APPEAR TO HAVE BEEN A SIGNIFICANT INCREASE IN CHINESE ASSISTANCE IN RECENT MONTHS. ACCORDING TO THE ROMANIAN MILITARY ATTACHE IN PEKING, CHINESE MILITARY PERSONNEL IN CAMBODIA NOW NUMBER 6,300 MILITARY INSTRUCTORS AND ADVISORS (AND AROUND 10,000 MILITARY WORKERS AND ENGINEERS), AND MANY CAMBODIANS ARE UNDERGOING MILITARY TRAINING IN CHINA.
  4. VIETNAM’S EFFORTS TO NEGOTIATE VIETNAM HAS TRIED TO PERSUADE CAMBODIA TO NEGOTIATE THE BORDER DISPUTE AND OTHER COUNTRIES TO BRING PRESSURE ON PHNOM PENH TO ENTER TALKS WITH VIETNAM. ON DECEMBER 31, 1977, WHEN VIETNAMESE TROOPS ENTERED CAMBODIA IN FORCE, CAMBODIA BROKE OFF DIPLOMATIC RELATIONS AND PUBLICLY ACCUSED HANOI OF ATTEMPTING A COUP AGAINST THE POL POT GOVERNMENT AND OF WANTING TO INCLUDE CAMBODIA WITHIN A VIETNAMESE-DOMINATED INDOCHINA FEDERATION.
  5. ON FEBRUARY 5, 1978, VIETNAM PUBLISHED PROPOSALS FOR A NEGOTIATED SETTLEMENT:

–AN IMMEDIATE END TO HOSTILITIES;

–WITHDRAWAL OF TROOPS TO FIVE KILOMETERS ON EACH SIDE OF THE BORDER;

–A MEETING TO CONCLUDE A TREATY TO SOLVE THE BORDER PROBLEM; AND

–AGREEMENT ON AN INTERNATIONAL GUARANTEE AND SUPERVISION OF THE BORDER.

  1. CAMBODIA REJECTED THIS OFFER AND A SIMILAR ONE IN APRIL. IT COUNTERED THAT VIETNAM MUST WITHDRAW ALL ITS FORCES FROM CAMBODIAN SOIL AND SHOW “GOOD DEEDS” DURING A SEVEN-MONTH COOLING-OFF PERIOD, DURING WHICH TIME PHNOM PENH WOULD EVALUATE HANOI’S SINCERITY. HANOI BRUSHED THIS DEMARCHE ASIDE AS “RIDICULOUS.”
  2. THE REAL STICKING POINT IS NOT THE BORDER ISSUE BUT PHNOM PENH’S DEMAND THAT HANOI ABANDON ITS AMBITION OF “EXPANSION AND ANNEXATION” DESIGNED TO COERCE CAMBODIA INTO A “SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP” DOMINATED BY HANOI. SINCE HANOI DENIES SUCH A GOAL, THERE IS NOTHING TO TALK ABOUT.
  3. PROSPECTS

THE PHNOM PENH GOVERNMENT APPEARS DETERMINED TO CONTINUE FIGHTING DESPITE VIETNAM’S ARMED SUPERIORITY. FOR ITS PART, VIETNAM, HAVING BEEN FORCED INTO AN INCREASINGLY COSTLY WAR, NOW INTENDS TO USE SUFFICIENT MILITARY AND POLITICAL PRESSURE TO BRING DOWN THE POL POT REGIME. HANOI PROBABLY PLANS TO USE PRO-VIETNAM CAMBODIAN INSURGENTS TO ADMINISTER LIBERATED BASES IN EASTERN CAMBODIA AND CHALLENGE PHNOM PENH’S AUTHORITY IN OTHER PROVINCES.

  1. CHINA MAY WELL INCREASE ITS ASSISTANCE TO CAMBODIA BUT WILL PROBABLY NOT SEND MAIN-FORCE UNITS INTO EITHER CAMBODIA OR VIETNAM, IN PART BECAUSE OF CONCERN OVER SOVIET AND WORLD REACTION. CONSEQUENTLY, CHINA WILL BE UNABLE TO GUARANTEE THE SECURITY OF THE PRESENT REGIME.
  2. AS VIETNAMESE PRESSURE MOUNTS, IT WILL BECOME INCREASINGLY LIKELY THAT ELEMENTS WITHIN THE PRESENT KHMER LEADERSHIP WILL OVERTHROW POL POT AND MIGHT SEEK AN ACCOMMODATION WITH THE VIETNAMESE, OR THAT HANOI WILL ENGINEER A SUCCESSFUL COUP AGAINST HIM.
  3. AS THE VIETNAMESE-CAMBODIAN CONFLICT ESCALATES, A PROBLEM FOR BOTH THE ASEAN STATES AND THE US WILL BE:

–MORE CAMBODIANS FLEEING INTO THAILAND (AND VIETNAM), PARTICULARLY IF THE AUTHORITY OF THE POL POT GOVERNMENT BREAKS DOWN; AND

–MORE VIETNAMESE FLEEING THEIR COUNTRY TO AVOID THE DRAFT, THE CONFLICT, AND HARSH INTERNAL CONDITIONS.

  1. THE ASEAN STATES ARE THEN LIKELY TO ADOPT LESS MAGNANIMOUS REFUGEE POLICIES AND TO BECOME MORE INSISTENT THAT THE US RELIEVE THEM OF THE BURDEN.

 

VANCE.

The release of declassified archive material often discloses insight into thinking about rather than details of an event, providing confirmation for what is publically known, such as the “secret bombing” of Cambodia publicised through media reports in the early 1970s [see SNIE 57-73]. With that in mind here are some declassified US Special National Intelligence Estimates [SNIE files] and CIA research reports [ESAU series] on Cambodia from that period.

 

Prince Sihanouk and the New Order in South East Asia (ESAU 25)esau-25Sihnouk

Communism and Cambodia (ESAU 54)esau-54Cambodia

1970 The Outlook for Cambodia (SNIE 57-70)Cambodia outlook 1970

1973 The Short Term prospects for Cambodia [SNIE 57-73]Cambodia 1973

The Short Term prospects for Cambodia Through the Current Dry Season May 1974 [SNIE 57-1-73]Cambodia 1973 (2)

Memorandum To Holders of SNIE 57-1-73Cambodia 1973 (3)

The Short Term prospects for Cambodia Through August 1974 [SNIE 57-1-74]Cambodia 1974

Prospects for Cambodia Through August 1975 [SNIE 57-1-75]Cambodia 1975

***

An earlier exploration of this theme https://woodsmokeblog.wordpress.com/2016/02/12/declassified-organized-political-warfare/

 

30. The Bradford 12

On July 11th 1981 the news that vanloads of skinheads were planning to invade Bradford’s main Asian area spread. Only a week before coachloads of skinheads had attacked Southall’s Asian community. It was community self-defence, not the police that had protected Southall.

1981 had already witnessed uprisings in Bristol, Brixton, Liverpool and other cities of working class African-Caribbean & Asian youth, joined at times by white youth, angry about poverty, unemployment, racist attacks and police harassment.

On the other side, racist skinhead thugs had invaded Black (mainly African-Caribbean and Asian) communities attacking people on the streets and in their homes.

In Bradford, the recently-formed United Black Youth League (UBYL) responded by mobilising youth and organising in the community’s defence. They prepared petrol bombs, that were never used, in case they were needed to construct ‘a wall of fire’ to keep the fascists out.

Some weeks later the unused petrol bombs were found and 12 activists from the UBYL were arrested in dawn raids across Bradford and charged with conspiracy to make explosives and to cause explosions.

The Twelve: Tarlochan Gata Aura * Tariq Ali * Jayesh Amin * Giovanni Singh * Praveen Patel * Ishaq Mohammed Kazi * Bahram Noor Khan * Masood Malik * Vasant Patel * Saeed Hussain * Sabir Hussain * Ahmed Mansor.b12poster

A defence campaign was formed; thousands marched in Bradford and Leeds initially under the slogan ‘Whose conspiracy? Police conspiracy!’ Over the months the case of the Bradford 12 was publicised and supporters organised. Almost a year later, a trial begun which exposed the scale and intensity of everyday racist violence and the extent of police racism faced by their communities.

Hundreds attended in support of the defendants at the court each day. court

court2

court4

The Defence campaign ensured information bulletins [ b12-leaflet-report-1 b12-leaflet-report-2  b12-leaflet-report3 ] were produced and distributed nationwide, along with daily press releases to highlight the trial. Campaign supporters received internal updates [ 1982-may-bulletin-4 ] and responded to calls to protest. The defence to the charges was community self-defence. The petrol bombs were made ~ We were forced to, to defend our communities from the threat of an invasion by the far-right National Front. We knew from previous experience there would be no police protection. The twelve and their legal team set out to educate the jury about the realities of racist violence for them, their families and for black people in Britain. The Defence campaign also saw that reports  [ 1982-stark-report] were compiled and submissions made about the extent of racist violence.  The jury responded by acquitting them– the trial of the Bradford 12 proved the importance of solidarity in the struggle for justice.

 

Source materials on the Bradford 12

cs-october1981  Free the Bradford 12. Class Struggle Vol.5 No.10

cs-december-1981 Bradford 12: Defence Campaign is Growing. Class Struggle Vol.5 No.12

Text of an early leaflet: brad12

FREE THE BRADFORD 12

FREE OUR BROTHERS NOW

Tarlochan Gata Aura * Tariq Ali * Jayesh Amin * Giovanni Singh * Praveen Patel * Ishaq Mohammed Kazi * Bahram Noor Khan * Masood Malik * Vasant Patel * Saeed Hussain * Sabir Hussain * Ahmed Mansor.

Framed by the Police. Charged with Conspiracy,

Facing LIFE IMPRISONMENT

‘BRADFORD 12 ARE FRAMED BECAUSE THEY FOUGHT STATE RACISM

Everyday our families are split apart by the racist Immigration Laws. Our homes are raided by Immigration Officers. We are harrassed by the police on the streets and arrested on any pretext. We are criminalised through arbitrary charges confirmed by the racist judiciary. They played a major role in the struggle of Anwar Ditta, Jaswinder Kaur and Nasira Begum against the racist Immigration laws and of Gary Pemberton against the lying West Yorkshire police.

THE BRADFORD 12 ARE FRAMED BECAUSE THEY DEFENDED THE BLACK COMMUNITY

Our mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers are attacked and murdered in the streets. The police do nothing. Our homes and places of worship are burned to the ground, nobody is arrested. Families are burned to death. The murderers and firebombers speak openly of their organised violence against our communities. In Bradford people face racist attacks everyday. For example on July I4th a white gang with a petrol bomb attacked an Asian Schoolboy. On July 24th two Asian homes were gutted by racist firebombers. The only Conspiracy is Police Conspiracy – DROP ALL CHARGES NOW

POLICE STATE IN ACTION

For years Britain has been a police state for black people. This year the repression has been stepped up by paramilitary attacks on the black communities – the army of occupation in Brixton, police vehicles crushing people to death and CS gas bullets in Liverpool and highly developed surveillance techniques all over Britain. In Bradford black youth have faced increased surveillance over the last 18 months. The ‘riots’ were an excuse to arrest our brothers and frame them for conspiracy. While the racist attackers of Asian homes on the 24th of July are out on bail, our brothers are being held in prison and refused bail’.

A Call to Action

untitled

cs-april-1982 Free the Bradford 12 Trial starts April 26. Class Struggle Vol.6 No.4

cs-may-1982 Free the Bradford 12! Class Struggle Vol.6 No.5

cs-june-1982 Self Defence Is No Offence. Class Struggle Vol.6 No.6

cs-july-1982 Bradford 12 Victory Self Defence Is No Offence. Class Struggle Vol.6 No.7

b12victorylop July 1982 Self-Defence is no offence! How the Bradford 12 won their freedom. Leeds Other Paper

cs-august-1982 A Victory for Black People. Class Struggle Vol.6 No.8

1983 b12   RCLB on the Bradford 12 Campaign. Anti-Racist Anti-Fascist Bulletin

1983  rt-on-b12-trial-copy  Reflecting on the Trial of the Decade: The Bradford 12. Race Today Collective ‘The Struggle of Asian Workers in Britain‘.  

bradford_011b

30 Years on ~ Bradford 12: lessons for organizing

Institute of Race Relations July 28th 2011

An event in London marking the Bradford 12 thirtieth anniversary was a celebration and an education for resistance.

Thirty years ago, on 10 July 1981, twelve young Asians were arrested and charged with conspiracy to cause explosions and to endanger life, after a crate of home-made milk-bottle petrol bombs was found. (In fact thirteen were arrested, but the thirteenth, the only woman, Shanaaz Ali, was released without charge.) A defence campaign was formed; thousands marched in Bradford and Leeds under the slogan ‘Whose conspiracy? Police conspiracy!’ and hundreds attended the trial each day. But the defence to the charges, not disclosed in advance of the trial so as to surprise the prosecution, was community self-defence. Yes, we made these petrol bombs, the young men said. We were forced to, to defend our communities from the threat of an invasion by the far-right National Front, against which we knew from previous experience there would be no police protection. The twelve and their legal team set out to educate the jury about the realities of racist violence for them, their families and for black people in Britain. The jury responded by acquitting them.

The events organised in Bradford and London on 16 and 23 July respectively, by some of the Bradford 12 with the South Asia Solidarity Group, Newham Monitoring Project and CAMPACC, celebrated the victory, but went further, asking what are the lessons for today’s generation, for divided and ravaged communities in a globalised world.

Speakers from the twelve, Shanaaz Ali, the men’s solicitors Ruth Bundey and Gareth Peirce, anti-racist organiser Dave Harrison and writer and campaigner Amrit Wilson spoke in the morning session at the London event, ‘Legacies and lessions’, at SOAS’ Khalili theatre. To an audience of veterans and neophytes, grandparents and young people, they sketched a history of popular, street and police racism, of anti-racist campaigning and community organising at a time when, as Amrit Wilson reminded us, ‘Black’ was a political colour and when multiculturalism came from below, rather than through state policies designed to pit communities against each other in competition for funding. Tariq Mehmood reflected on the importance to the United Black Youth League in 1981 of not seeking public funding, a policy fostering self-reliance and independence which needed to be re-learned by groups addressing today’s challenges, whether of youth criminalisation, deaths in custody, anti-terror policies or Islamophobia. Gareth Peirce observed that for the state, the lessons of the Bradford 12’s victory were clear: if juries could not be relied on to convict, abolish them – by finding administrative alternatives to trial such as control orders; and if acquittals were based on evidence, abolish it – by instituting processes of secret evidence so that those dubbed ‘terrorist’ were not told why, leaving them unable to fight the label and the punitive measures which followed.

In the first afternoon session ‘Resisting the British state’, a wide range of speakers outlined contemporary challenges and campaigns. Mary Pearson of the Troops Out Movement referred to the 5,000 British troops still stationed in northern Ireland. Marcia Rigg spoke of her brother’s death in custody and the mutually supporting and strengthening role of the United Families and Friends Campaign, which is holding its annual march later in the year. Frances Webber of the IRR (who was a Mackenzie friend[1] for one of the Twelve, Tariq Mehmood, during the trial), spoke of the similarities and differences between then and now – from the NF to the EDL; from immigration policies separating families to globalised policies treating people as commodities; from popular and police racism to monoculturalism, thought and speech crimes, and new geographies of racism. Dan Glass of Plane Stupid/So We Stand described the two and a half-year campaign starting with the arrest of 113 climate change activists in a Nottingham hall in 2009, in which he put to good use lessons in campaigning learned from the Bradford 12. (Of the twenty-six charged, the trial of six was abandoned when Mark Kennedy’s role as a police agent provocateur was exposed, and twenty activists’ convictions were quashed by the Court of Appeal a week ago.) Dan’s talk illuminated the links between environmental campaigns and anti-racism which the emerging activist group So We Stand is committed to strengthening. Deniz Arbet of the Kurdish Community Centre (KCC) spoke of the struggles of Kurds for recognition and against criminalisation through the anti-terror laws. And Hamja Ahsan gave a moving speech about his brother Talha’s five-year imprisonment for extradition to the US on conspiracy charges (for which no evidence is needed), and read some of Talha’s beautiful poems, written in prison.court3

The last session of the day, ‘Imperialism then and now’, looked beyond our borders. Samarendra Das, from South Asia Solidarity, reported on the role of the Department for International Development (DfID) and of large NGOs in supporting mining corporation Vedanta, whose bauxite mining in India had, he said, led to thousands of deaths of mainly indigenous people through forced displacement, accidents and police operations and famine in a devastated environment. He spoke of the popular struggles which have been supported by international solidarity. Jawad Sabah of Iraqi Democrats Against Occupation (IDAO) recounted and then demolished the myths behind western intervention in the ‘Arab spring’, and Leila Khaled of the Palestine National Council sent solidarity greetings to round off a stimulating and rewarding day, full of reflections and new connections – the sort of day that sends participants out recharged for resistance.

http://www.irr.org.uk/news/bradford-12-lessons-for-organising/

 


 

The IWA (GB), Indian Communists & the AIC

In many accounts of the Left in Britain there are few references to the work of national minority communists. Certainly in London there was awareness – and occasionally organisational recognition – of significant first generation – Greek Cypriot and Kurdish and Turkish – communist forces operated within their communities and the labour movement. Often in exile, having left political oppression at home, life in Britain saw political action to defend their community from poor social conditions, racist discrimination and harsh exploitative work conditions. Britain’s Black and Ethnic Minority communists have a long history of contributing below the radar to community and workplace struggles. Safely submerged within the broader community movement, communists worked quietly, the low profile reflective of a semi-clandestine nature of the organisation.

There was always a sprinkling of Britain’s foreign-born communists involved in “party activities”, some like Claudia Jones having membership of the CPGB’s International Committee. However the main arena for struggle was within organisations firmly centred in the social base of a national minority community. One of the oldest communist formations, The Association of Indian Communists [AIC] has now taken on an internet presence  [ http://indobrit.org/cpb_aic/ ]  and signals its alignment to one of the remnants of the CPGB, the Communist Party of Britain.

dscn0048

This open declaration is in marked contrast to its chequered history as a political core operating within the Indian Workers’ Association. Little has been disclosed about the influence and activities of the AIC. The dual membership of both organisations meant that some of the activities of the IWAs should be seen through the prism of AIC membership, and the IWA’s organisational evolution explained by the factional disputes and struggles within the smaller organisation. There was also the added factor that curtailed the contribution of  such national minority organisations like the AIC. Nationality based formations reflected the issues and divisions of the ‘Motherland’ and the fractious nature of the IWA is seen in the catalogue of organisational splits and creation of alternative (but similarly named) rivals. The public AIC of today has a different complexion to that that emerged amidst the anti-revisionist struggles of the 1960s that saw distinct, and hostile, organisations operating under similar names. In May 1967 the Association of Indian Communists, Great Britain, Circular No. 2 from T.S. Sahota, Secretary of the Central Executive Committee included a review of the first national conference, Leamington Spa, and a report “of Cde Joshi contained an appraisal of the IWA (Southall)[1]. It was uncompromising: ‘the outstanding common feature of all these groups, despite their internal contradictions, is that they are all anti-communist, opportunist, reactionary stooges of the Indian High Commission, toadies of the Labour Party and hence enemies of the working class and the Indian community.” Such opposition was reciprocated by other IWA towards their former comrades.

Some clarity to the evolution of these separate, sometimes affiliated organisation and the existence of a number of groups called IWA with very different positions, philosophies and functions that came about through a series of splits, is beyond the scope of this posting but  can be found an account of the IWA[2] elsewhere.  Furthermore the social and cultural nature of the various associations should not be under-estimated, or indeed devalued by a concentration of a political focus that highlights the safeguarding and improvement of immigrant Indians’ conditions of life and work, and their co-operation and unity with the British trade union and labour movement.[3]  An indication of the range of work undertaken is evident in the tribute to IWA stalwarth, Manjit Kaur wife of Avtar Jouhl – General Secretary of the IWA. [manjit-kaur] The combination of welfare and campaigning work, in the judgement of IWA (GB) leader, Avtar Jouhl, “enabled it to make its mark as a champion of equality for Indians and other exploited groups in Britain and beyond.”[4]

In the latter half of the twentieth century, the Indian Workers’ Associations became the most important Punjabi associations in Britain and involved mass participation, although it continued to be a predominately male organisation.  Although throughout its history since 1938, it encompassed a range of political affiliations, including Akalis, Communists, Congress party members, and members of the British Labour Party, special mention has to be made of the communists as they were the most organised group and able to exert more influence than their numerical strength would suggest.[5] The activity, and almost semi-clandestine profile of Indian Communists in Britain, was largely subsumed and hidden in the broad membership organization of the associations.

Not surprisingly “the spirit of socialism” pervaded the organisation’s attitude to its work and a significant number of the leadership were or had been members of the Communist Party of India. When they arrived in post-war Britain, Indian communists associated themselves with the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB). However even when CPGB members, they had their own separate Indian branches and their own officers and could conduct meetings in Punjabi and concentrate on issues and activities of interest to Punjabis.

9577789_orig

The Association of Indian Communists was formally constituted at a meeting of the representatives of Indian Communists in Britain held in the presence of Harkishan Singh Surjeet, member of the Polit Bureau of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) on 18th September 1966 in London. Teja Singh Sahota became a founder member of Association of Indian Communist in Britain and was elected to its Central Committee and Secretariat. In 1967 he was elected AIC Secretary.

Sharp disagreements arose from the early 1960s between the IWA (GB) in Birmingham and the IWA Southall.  Although the IWA (GB) eventually had branches in Southall and the rest of the Country, it was concentrated in the West Midlands. The tensions within the communists in the IWA was complicated and involved a number of meetings both of the Association of Indian Communists in GB and of the IWA (GB)and the participation of two members of the politburo of the CPI-M. There are different perspectives regarding what happened at these meetings but the outcome was that a further split took place within the IWA (GB) at the Leicester Conference in 1967, with IWA Southall under the leadership of Vishnu Sharma in the South, and IWA (GB) under Prem Singh politically aligned to the Communist Party of India (Marxist)   and IWA (GB) identified with a pro-Chinese Marxist-Leninist grouping led by Teja Singh Sahota (1925-2008), Jagmohan Joshi (1936-79) and Avtar Jouhl (1937-) in the Midlands. Because this split was of the centralised body it affected all the branches and resulted in two local IWAs existing in most areas.[6]

Sasha Josephides explained,

The communists in Southall IWA supported the CPI while most of the communists in the IWA (GB) aligned themselves with the new party, the CPI-M. As the party in Britain only recognized the CPI, those Indians who sympathised with the CPI-M could not work within the CPGB. They therefore left the CPGB and formed their own Association of Indian Communists in Great Britain in 1965. By 1966 the Indian branches of the CPGB had dissolved.

This division was clearly related to differences both within the AIC and within the IWA on a variety of issues regarding Britain, India and the international scene. In the background was the international factors, not only the polemic within the international communist movement that was influencing positions but also the factionalism within the Party in India. The CPI analyses of the nature of the ruling Indian Congress Party, attitudes towards foreign and internal policies, organisational issues and, decisively, the border dispute with China, were all matters which deepened the rift between left and right. A split in the CPI was formalised in 1965 with the existence of two Indian communist parties; the rightist CPI and the leftist Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPIM). These differences were brought to a head by the Naxalbari uprising in West Bengal where a number of the Naxalbari uprising, although initiated by CPI (M) militants, were not supported by the CPI-M’s leadership. Those Indian communists who were involved in the uprising or sympathetic to it later broke off from the CPI-M to form the CPI-ML.

The AIC/IWA not surprisingly had contact with the wider international ML movement with various Indian revolutionary organisations that were in existence – like those favourable to the Naxalite positions, the Committee of Unity Centre of Communist Revolutionaries of India (ML), the Communist Party of East Bengal (ML) and Indian Peoples Association in North America – and the KPD (ML) in West Germany to name a few who sought correspondence with their co-thinkers in the AIC.

 

A peal of spring thunder

The Naxalbari Uprising was hailed in Maoist China as a spark which could spread across India. “The Communist Party of China, then the centre for world revolution, hailed the uprising. On June 28, 1967 Radio Peking broadcast:

“A phase of peasants’ armed struggle led by the revolutionaries of the Indian Communist Party has been set up in the countryside in Darjeeling district of West Bengal state of India. This is the front paw of the revolutionary armed struggle launched by the Indian people……”.

Within a week, the July 5th edition of People’s Daily carried an article entitled ‘Spring Thunder over India’ which said: “A peal of spring thunder has crashed over the land of India. Revolutionary peasants in Darjeeling area have risen in rebellion. Under the leadership of a revolutionary group of the Indian Communist Party, a red area of rural revolutionary armed struggle has been established in India….. The Chinese people joyfully applaud this revolutionary storm of the Indian peasants in the Darjeeling area as do all the Marxist-Leninists and revolutionary people of the world.”  [7]

poem

Both Indian Workers Association remained concerned with political and social developments in India. The IWA (GB) P Singh has clear links with the CPI-M through the Association of Indian Communists in GB and provides a platform to visiting CPI-M politicians. The other IWA (GB) sympathetic to Naxalite trend, did not have such links with any single party in India. The Joshi-led IWA (GB) campaigned against the repression of political opponents, particularly Indira Gandhi’s government imposition of a State of Emergency between 1975 and 1977, in the Alliance Against Fascist Dictatorship for People’s Democratic India.   Demonstrations at the Indian Embassy in London and the publication of leaflets and pamphlets, such as India’s General Elections Are A Fraud, were a regular feature of IWA (GB) activity.[Found here  election-fraud-1977 ]  In his writing on the situation in India, Harpal Brar argued that India had had a fascist regime since 1947 and that continued regardless of the elections of March 1977. His pamphlet, “Whence Our differences?” was circulated to IWA members only. When Indria Gandhi visited the UK in November 1978 her meetings were accompanied by hundreds of angry demonstrators. Mrs Gandhi had been invited to speak at Southall by IWA (Southall) whose General Secretary Mr Vishnu Sharua was a National Executive member of the Communist Party of Great Britain. The protests were initiated by IWA (GB) and supported by the Organisation of Untouchables, the Akali Party, a Sikh religious party and supporters of the CPI(M) and other IWA.[8]

Behind the IWA (GB) analysis and campaigning was an influential Marxist-Leninist perspective that emphasized the links between racism, fascism and imperialism. The Birmingham based pro-Chinese Marxist-Leninist grouping had resolved its own dilemma to the appropriate role in that could be play within the British working class struggles. The Birmingham triumvirate were politically influential producing a study entitled ‘The National Question: The Application of Marxist Analysis to the National Minority Question in Britain’, presented in 1967 as a report to the Association of Indian Communists.

From papers deposited at Birmingham city archives[9], it is clear the Association of Indian Communists had mirror organisational structures to the IWA, with a Central executive Committee and branch committees elected annually and meetings taking place on a regular basis. National conferences were held and notices and letters circulated to the membership. Dual membership of the two organisations was more the rule, many of those who held office in the IWA featured in the leadership of the National IWA as well as the less publicised AIC. Teja Singh Sahota, was addressed in correspondence as the secretary of the Association of Indian Communists Britain (Marxist-Leninist). Prem Singh, was General Secretary of the Association of Indian Communists in Britain, as well as the leading spokesperson in the (other) IWA. The leadership core was a stable and experienced group that oversaw both the IWA and AIC through turbulent times.

Two personalities familiar on the wider anti-revisionist scene in Britain who were representatives of the AIC at meetings and platforms in the late sixties and late seventies were Abhimanyu Manchanda and Harpal Brar. Both were better known for their leadership of explicitly Marxist-Leninist organisations, the Revolutionary Marxist-Leninist League (RMLL), led by Manchanda, and its off-spring the Association of Communist Workers (ACW) launched in 1969 and led by law lecturer Harpal Brar.  Indeed, Brar was for years able to straddle both movements assuming a leadership position and profile as spokesperson for a variety of organisation he would establish or work within.

For the IWA (GB) – and less publicised the AIC – there were varying depths of contact with domestic maoist groups throughout their existence – Communist Unity Association, the British Marxist Leninist Organisation, forerunner of the CPB(ML), Working People’s Party of England, Communist Organisation of Britain, the Revolutionary Communist League of Britain, whose chairman spoke at an memorial for Joshi .burford

While relations were evident with the emerging anti-revisionist movement in Britain, sharing platforms at meetings, suggestions to incorporate the Marxist-Leninist grouping within a wider anti-revisionist organisation, as with the 1968 Birch founded Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist), were still-born initiatives. The AIC (Britain) Marxist-Leninist did attend the September1977 Marxist-Leninist Consultative meeting held in Birmingham. This gathering of numerous ML groups from throughout Britain (Workers Party of Scotland (ML) attended) for a weekend of debate and discussion resulted in a self-selected Interim Committee. It achieved little progress in securing ML unity , and later dismissed by the largest ML organisation, the RCLB’s chairman Chris Burford as having a “federalist line on party building and its rightist opportunist line on the relationship between revolution in Britain and the international struggle.”[10]  Indeed, the question of the relationships between national minority communists as well as those in exile in Britain, like the Kurds and Turkish comrades in the 1970s, to the party-building tasks in Britain, were never resolved in one organisational form.

There was a danger of exaggerated expectations of the Association of Indian Communists because of its association with the IWA. As community-based organisations, when mobilised they could swell the numbers of any rally or march and the leadership provide a political speech pitch perfect , however that large membership did not necessarily exceed the declared objectives to further India’s attempt to achieve independence, to promote social and cultural activities and to foster greater understanding between Indian and British people.

 

Jagmohan Joshi (1936-79)

Avtar Jouhl was succeeded as General Secretary by Jagmohan Joshi in 1964, who held this position until his death on June 3rd 1979 aged 43 while leading a demonstration against state racism.

memorial

“Never let it be said that the first generation of black immigrants played the role of uncle Toms. Far from it. They took to the streets and struck blows against all oppression. Joshi said, “We won’t sit back, we will hit back.”

  • Shirley Joshi speaking at a memorial meeting[11]

During his leadership, the national organisation was probably at its most active and radical in terms of its campaigning activities. In Joshi, the IWA (GB) had a charismatic leader, and accomplished poet (under the name of Asar Hoshiarpuri) . delhi-is-not-far-away  The Times described Joshi as “uncompromising and thoughtful Maoist industriously working for broad-front multi-racial British militant organisation”. In the late 60s this was partially true: the IWA (GB) remain his prime arena of work and political base.

However there was always a perspective of “United Front” campaigning. Sivanandan refers to Joshi as “the man who had initiated so many of the black working class and community movements of the early years and clarified for us all the lines of race/class struggle”.

The attempt to build militant broad campaigning organisation was seen in the early 1960s Joshi initiated the formation of the Coordinating Committee Against Racial Discrimination (CCARD), a broad based campaigning committee of 26 organisations fronted by Victor Yates, MP for Ladywood, who was the first president. Maurice Ludmer of the Jewish Ex Servicemen’s Association and editor of Searchlight anti-fascist magazine played a significant role, together with academic, Shirley Fossick, who later married Joshi.

In April 1968 he convened the Black People’s Alliance, attracting 50 delegates representing 20 Indian, Caribbean, Pakistanis and African organisations throughout Britain. But such a heady mix of pro-Maoist and Black Power activists proved an unsustainable agenda in the absence of a unifying revolutionary party.

The journalist, Malcolm Southan, described the success of an alliance of black groups to have been largely due to the abilities of Joshi [12] .He was the central figure in the formation of many campaigning groups, an important spokesperson at the time of the ‘wild cat’ strikes in the Midlands foundries and the mobilisation against anti immigration legislation, and he wrote and spoke in many forums, analysing the forms of racism and other political issues.

From 1972 until his death in 1979, Joshi ran a bookshop called ‘Progressive Books and Asian Arts’ on Bristol Road, Birmingham. The bookshop sold Marxist and progressive literature from all over the world as well as Chinese arts and crafts. Members of the IWA (GB) contributed funds for the lease of the shop. The shop was important not only in terms of the role it performed in providing an outlet for distributing progressive literature but also because it enabled important links to be made between members of the IWA, anti-apartheid groups and progressive groups at the University of Birmingham.

1971-hyde-park

One of Joshi’s personal contributions was his instrumental encouragement towards the formation of the Birmingham Communist Association (BCA) in 1975. Paying tribute to his contribution, the BCA said [12] “Comrade Jagmohan ]oshi was known as a determined campaigner against racialism and imperialism and for his support of the struggle of the Indian people for national liberation. He opened many eyes to the realities of oppression in India and other parts of the Third World, and introduced many people to a greater understanding of racialism……

He always emphasised the need to participate in the working class struggle in this country, and to strive to build a communist movement. He struggled against revisionism and never hesitated to denounce the so- called parties of the working class as frauds. At the same time as a mature communist, he understood “who are our enemies” and “who are our friends”, and worked and discussed with progressive people at all levels, always involving as many people as possible in broad front work.”

Campaigning against racism, discrimination and social exclusion

The Indian Workers Association led by Joshi campaigned against discrimination and social exclusion facing Indian and other black and Asian migrants in Britain through poor housing conditions, employment inequalities such as the segregation of facilities in factories where its members worked; the operation of a ‘colour bar’ in employment and education, as well as in shops, public houses, and other leisure facilities; and the restrictions of immigration legislation introduced during the 1960s and 1970s. Under A Jouhal the IWA (GB) opened the Shaheed Udham Singh Welfare Centre in May 1978 at 346 Soho Road, Handsworth. operated an Advice Centre, taking on case work for the local population.

National minority people have been actively organising in defence of their lives and communities and the rise and demise of organisations such as the Coordinating Committee Against Racial Discrimination (CCARD) formed to opposed the 1962 Commonwealth Immigrants Bill and the Campaign Against Racial Discrimination (CARD) inaugurated in February 1965.  Throughout the 1970s Joshi’s IWA continued to challenge state racism through participation in the Campaign Against Racist Laws (CARL) and the Campaign Against Racism and Fascism [CARF].

Indeed one of the IWA’s main campaigns during the 1960s was against immigration legislation, in particular the 1962 Commonwealth Immigration Bill. This bill sought to restrict the entry into Britain of black migrants from Commonwealth countries. The IWA, in conjunction with other bodies such as the West Indian Standing Conference, and the Standing Conference of Pakistan, fought hard against this legislation, putting together a pamphlet entitled Victims Speak and posting it to each Member of Parliament. However, the campaign did not stop the Bill becoming law, and 1962 escalated the politicisation of race as an issue in British politics.

After the passing of race relations legislation in the mid-1960s differences between the different IWAs (reflecting differing Marxist analyses) became more pronounced. In practice, the different IWA groups continued to do similar work, and in some cases even campaigned together in some trade union struggles and against immigration control.  Both groups struggled for recognition as the ‘real’ Indian Workers Association during this period.

The emphasis and political orientation of each IWA (GB) was reflected in its publications communicating information on anti-racism, campaigns and social and political issues: the IWA (GB) published many pamphlets also in English, the IWA (GB) of Prem Singh published extensively in the Punjabi newspaper Des Pardes. Pamphlets concerning immigration legislation such as ‘The Victims Speak’ or ‘Smash the Immigration Bill 1971’ were an important part communicating the IWA’s message.   Mazdoor (‘The Worker’) the IWA’s first newsletter/ journal was published by the Birmingham branch in 1961 mainly in Punjabi but also with some articles in Urdu, reflecting its wider communal reach. In 1967 Lalkar (‘Challenge’) replaced Mazdoor as the newsletter of the IWA (GB).  Avtar Jouhl was appointed editor of ‘Lalkar’ (Challenge). Described by The Times as published in Brussels courtesy of the Pro-Chinese Belgian, Jacques Grippa, 1500 copies are “printed in Punjabi, it has been flown to London at no small expense and sold to Indian immigrants in Britain as part of an effort to convert them to Maoist revolution.”  [13]. It was relaunched in 1979 under the editorship of Harpal Brah. Lalkar as a bi-lingual publication in Punjabi and English. Both Mazdoor and Lalkar were primarily political journals, analysing political events from a Marxist-Leninist perspective, but they also focused on news about demonstrations and other IWA activities.

 Differences in political perspectives and analysis underlined the split had as much to do with issues relating to politics in Britain. Joshi’s supporters in the IWA (GB) believes that because many white workers have been corrupted into racism, whilst black workers have at the same time become more politicised, both through their experiences of exploitation as well as by their earlier struggles against imperialism, then black workers will often find themselves taking the initiative in workplace struggle, and would then be joined by white workers.

“We feel unity (between black and white) will develop in struggle. This does not in any sense deny the need for black workers to have their own caucuses in every factory and place of work. We do not advocate separate black unions; that would be to play the capitalists game of dividing the working class” [14]

There was a twin track commitment to forming strong trade unions to oppose the erosion of the rights of working people and to fight racism within unions and to organise workers in the sweatshops (mostly-Asian owned) of the Midlands. Support was given to shop floor revolts by Asian workers, such as the strike by Asian workers in 1965 at Courtauld’s Red Scar textile mill in Preston and, in May 1974, Asian workers at the Imperial Typewriter Company[15] in Leicester on strike over unequal bonus payments and discrimination in promotion. The shop stewards committee and union branch refused their support. A few years later the IWA (GB) were very active in support of the Asian women workers at Grunwick photo processing plant in north west London.  About Grunwick [16], there is a great deal written and it is celebrated in the UK’s trade union history – even though the strike was lost, the company continued to refuse union recognition and the striking workers were not reinstated. What Grunwick did was generate solidarity actions and support across the wider union movement.  [Assessment of  grunwick ]

In the 1970 general secretary’s report, Joshi had stated that ‘there can be no question of black power outside of the class struggle’  and above ‘Led by black workers we shall try to find who our friends and who our enemies are. We shall try to unite with the former and fight the latter irrespective of their ethnic origins….for us black power is the establishment of a socialist state in which the workers of our country will take the lead in everything.’ [17]

Fighting racism was considered, by the marxist leaderships within both IWAs, to be inseparable from the creation of a strong working-class movement. However the difference in their two positions was fundamental and led to one group becoming concerned with a black power dimension, forging links with black groups, culminating in the formation of the Black Peoples Alliance, and later there were limited links with the Black Panthers.

The Indian Workers Association (GB) appears to have considered that the Indian Workers Association (Southall) committed to a more traditional class analysis, had an assimilationist philosophy. Harpal Brar, of the Southall branch of the AIC wrote an internal AIC pamphlet “Once Again on the Question of Participation in Bourgeois parliamentary elections and the mistakes of our ‘left comrades’” (May 1978). He had authoured an attack on rivals in the Indian Workers’ Association (Southall) in the 1976 pamphlet “On the Lap-Dogs of Indian fascism: an exposure of the leading clique of the IWA (Southall).”

Such vituperative attacks were not forgotten.

The IWA led by Prem Singh did not attribute a special role to black workers and considered that the initiative for the struggle has to come from the working class as a whole. As an organisation neither group supported any British parties but individual members belonged to the Labour Party and members of each of the IWA (GB) have served as Labour Party councillors.

The Indian Workers Association (Southall) worked with government bodies whereas the Indian Workers Association (GB) actively encouraged Black workers to lead the fight against racism with campaigns and systematic opposition to racist political parties and racist laws and links were actively sought with other national minorities and black power organisations. IWA (GB) under Joshi refused to become involved with state-sponsored groups. They were to become more ambivalent on this issue.

posters

In 1981, the Campaign Against racist Laws saw 20,000 demonstrate against the proposed National Bill. A couple of years later, in 1983, around 4-5,000 were mobilised. The judgement of long-time supporters on the Maoist Left in Britain concluded,  “Maggie – out, out, out” was a leading slogan on the march and the general politics seemed to be a reliance on the Labour party to repeal the Immigration and Nationality laws. It confirmed our view that CARL has watered down its politics in an opportunist attempt to get trade union and labour party support. This was shown in the order of the march which was announced as ‘trade unions first’. Black organisations and campaigns against the deportation of individuals were expected to follow.”[18]

In publicising a joint conference of the IWA and the state-funded Commission for Racial Equality, on the Race Relations Act 1976, held in January 1993, Lalkar argued “an active involvement of all citizens will surely force the government to make changes in this act.” Furthermore, it explained, “Our history is part of an historic process of inclusion. We set out to involve our own members to work with other communities in order to improve the life of all our citizens.”

May 1979 saw the publication of a nine–page resignation letter from East London IWA members highlighting the contradictions within the national organisation. It spoke of the frustration at ‘happy family relationship’ within the IWA structures, of the feudal mentality that failed to address weaknesses, that “drinking partners and friendship are more important than political actions and principles”, complaining that no new branch had been formed since 1974 in Derby.

The appeal of the IWA in the 1980s/90s waned. There had been a number of Asian Youth organisations, like the United Black Youth League, that had embarked upon self-organisation by-passing the existing national minority community coverorganisations. The Birmingham aligned IWA (Bradford) had encouraged the formation of the Indian Progressive Youth Association, however as recorded in Anandi Ramamurthy’s Black Star, Britain’s Asian youth movements took on an independent  radical existence in the struggle of working class black communities against racism in Britain in the 1980s [19] Another challenge came from the growth of communal politics in India with religious fundamentalism Hindu-based parties mirrored in Britain and the rise of forces promoting Sikh separation hostile to the IWAs.

Opposition to US imperialism was vocally matched in the IWA (GB) by condemnation of the actions of the Soviet Union, a position reflecting an anti-revisionist position and support for China’s foreign policy opposition to, what had been described since 1968 as, Soviet Social imperialism. The General Secretary of the IWA (GB), Jagmohan Joshi was well known to the Marxist-Leninist movement as a staunch anti-revisionist:  “Comrade Joshi fought for Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought against revisionist and Trotskyite distortions of Marxism. He upheld the People’s Republic of China as a great beacon of socialism and supported the three worlds theory.” [20]

The IWA (GB) had an established record of its support for campaigns on international issues such as the US war on Vietnam and later against the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia in 1979 issuing English language leaflets.

Joshi played an important role in the work of building support for the people of Kampuchea, speaking to about 200 at a picket organised outside the Vietnamese London embassy in February 1979. Joshi said that the picket was but the first step in building a might campaign in support of the Kampuchea people which the IWA was determined to do. [21]

At an earlier day of action and solidarity on February 3rd, an unnamed speaker from the AIC (Britain) Marxist-Leninist was reported to have observe that “Marxist-Leninists had tended to overlook the negative aspects of Vietnamese policy, such as their support of the fascist Indira Gandhi’s regime in India and of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia.”[22]

This AIC opposition to Soviet foreign policy was expressed through the international positions taken by the IWA (GB) in support of national self-determination and independence. In March 1980, the IWA (GB) convened a conference on Afghanistan, where T.S. Sahota argued,tss

“It is high time that all those who oppose the Soviet Social imperialist aggression on Afghanistan, a third world country, and a neutral country, take action to support the Afghan people. As Indians we have a special duty because that aggression is clearly connected with the policy of Soviet social-imperialism in the Indian sub-continent.”[23]   This was a minority position of the left in Britain as other speakers against both the superpowers included the Bangladesh Workers’ Association, the Revolutionary Communist League of Britain and the Communist Workers’ Movement.

 At Digbeth town Hall the 1982 National Conferences of the AIC, in common with the rest of the maoist movement internationally, saw discussion on the Chinese foreign policy strategy, the theory of three worlds, and the dangers of American and Soviet imperialism and the developments in India. While the domestic focus was on the economic crisis and opposition to Thatcher’s monetarist policies.

However no organisation was immune to the change geo-political realities as the decade progressed that clear political identification became less of a defining feature of the IWA (GB) as changes in China and  the Gorbachev era ushered in the disintegration of the Soviet Union and collapse of its ruling party. In May 1986 T.S. Sahota had reported to the AIC National Conference on the changes in the international situation at the IWA (GB)’s welfare centre in Soho Road Birmingham.

The context of the Cold War victory for the West and weakening of the influence and appeal of Marxism towards the end of the last century also had its effect. While competing for community leadership and simultaneously fighting the same fight, the dissolution of international issues that forced their divorce, an attitude of putting the past behind them and strengthening the existing forces, saw movement towards the merging of the IWA into one organisation in February 1991. The shared campaigning between the different IWA saw co-ordination between the two organisation. For instance, in the late 1980s the joint chairperson of the Campaign Against Racist Laws were Prem Singh and Harpal Brar. Given the changes in circumstances, a Co-Ordinating Committee of five representatives of each IWA (that included Brar) was established in November 1989. The two IWAs held a unity conference in June 1990 with the National merger conference taking place on February 16/17th 1991 in Birmingham. Teja Sahota led the IWAGB merger along with Prem Singh Pardesi of IWAGB. Avtar Singh Jouhl, from the “Midlands wing” later became General Secretary of the Indian Workers’ Association (GB).  Prem Singh was elected president of the united IWA that claimed 14 branches with a membership of 20,000.

The ability to distinguish and attribute actions and ideas between the IWA and the AIC had always been difficult given the entangled nature of the dual membership and AIC members’ leadership roles. The first National Conference of the united IWA (GB) took place in Woolwich, south east London in June 1993. Under Brar’s control of Lalkar, the accountability between the IWA and essentially its publication became tenuous. Increasingly Lalkar became both an English-language publication, and much more reflective of Brar’s own political positions.[24]  Reports of meetings would list speakers like Ludo Martens, President of the Workers Party of Belgium and Adolfo Olaechea of the Comite Sol Peru, and statements issued by the Socialist Labour Party (whilst he was a member) would be reproduced, and news from China and North Korea would have prominences in its pages. There were polemical articles attacking others’ politics e.g. on the Independent Working Class Association (Lalkar May/June 1996) or on the Anti-Racist Alliance’s bourgeois nationalism (Lalkar Oct/Nov 1993). Alongside the reports on anti-deportation and workplace struggles like the Bunsall strikers, there was the more explicit coverage of communist and radical campaigns and meetings.  The flavour of the “community paper” was more anti-imperialist orientated, its internationalist outlook was less the IWA – or even the majority of the AIC – and more Brar’s own.

Besides the public criticism of the East London IWA branch, evidence of lukewarm support and passive resistance to the Brar-published Lalkar from within the IWA membership can be seen in the letters that Harpal Brar wrote to Avtar Jouhl discussing the attitude of many branches towards the distribution and collection of payments for the paper.[25] His need to emphasis the need for members to actively support the publication is indicative of the absence of such support.

The coming together of communists from each IWA tradition in the Association of Indian Communists (AIC) saw a political “healing” of the wounds that had divided it. References to the AIC began to appear in Lalkar: in 1993 Teja Singh Sahota spoke at a commemoration rally on Shapurji Saklatvara, Indian communist MP for Battersea North in the 1920s.[26] However it was an AIC that did not include all; The IWA cut its ties with Lalkar in 1992 when members of the executive committee affiliated to CPI(M) objected to an article’s mild criticism of China’s market socialism.  Brar treated Lalkar as a personal publishing vehicle and maintained its existence as an independent Marxist-Leninist journal.

 The CPGB (ML) explained its perspective when it criticised the AIC’s ally, the Communist Party of Britain.[27] The CPB had described the CPGB (ML) in a report to an international audience in these terms.

The leadership of the CPGB-ML has its political origins in a ‘Naxalite’ trend in the Indian Workers Association in Britain. The predominant trend in the IWA is led by the Association of Indian Communists in Britain, affiliated to the Communist Party of India (Marxist). Between 1991 and 2004, the Association of Indian Communists tried to maintain unity with the Naxalites. This proved difficult because a Naxalite branch insisted on maintaining its own publication, Lalkar, edited by Harpal Brar, and projecting its own rather than IWA policies, by, for example, denouncing the reforms undertaken by the Communist Party of China and welcoming India’s nuclear tests.

“In 2001, Lalkar applauded the September 11 attacks. The thousands of workers who died in the Twin Towers were all dismissed as ‘bankers’ and ‘stockbrokers’. All Communists, socialists and progressives who disagreed with this position were accused of siding with imperialism (Lalkar, November/December 2001). In 2004, the overwhelming majority of the IWA re-established that organisation without those who published Lalkar. Those excluded today lead the CPGB-ML.”

In reply, the CPGB-ML countered:

“Space and time do not allow us to deal now with these questions of history. We shall, however, say this: It is not true that the leadership of CPGB-ML has its origins in a ‘Naxalite’ trend in the IWA, as is the assertion of the CPB. The political origins of the CPGB-ML’s leadership lie in the trend represented by the Comintern throughout its existence – a trend the CPGB followed faithfully during that entire period. In the leadership of the CPGB-ML there are only two Indians, and they by no means represents the ‘Naxalite’ trend. The CPB’s assertion to the contrary is a product of its fevered imagination.

….

It is not true that it became impossible to maintain unity in the IWA because, according to the CPB, a Naxalite branch insisted on maintaining its own publication, Lalkar, edited by Harpal Brar, and projecting its own policies rather than those of the IWA. This assertion too is the work of the not inconsiderably fertile imagination of the CPB. For one thing, there was no ‘Naxalite’ branch; all the branches of the IWA had a common membership. Second, no branch had a paper of its own. When the two IWAs were united in 1991, Lalkar, which was the organ of that IWA which had no political ties with the CPM, became at the unity conference the organ of the united IWA and continued to be so for several years. The problems with the paper did not arise because the alleged, but actually non-existent, ‘Naxalite’ branch insisted on projecting its own rather than IWA policies. In fact, the boot was on the other foot. It was the CPM leadership, and its followers in the IWA, who wanted Lalkar to represent and reflect CPM policy rather than that of the IWA – a workers’ organisation functioning in Britain.

As to the examples of Lalkar’s alleged deviation from the line of the IWA, the matters stand as follows. When India (and a few days later Pakistan) conducted nuclear tests, the Executive Committee of the IWA (the majority of whom were people with very close ties to the CPM) unanimously passed a resolution in support of these tests. Subsequently, at the behest of the leadership of the CPM, the latter’s followers demanded the rescission of this resolution. It is clear that it was a foreign party’s interference in the internal affairs of the IWA which was the source of troubles in the latter – not Lalkar failing to reflect IWA policy.”

_________________

The pretext was widely regarded to push Brar successfully away from the organisation. The antagonisms that had accompanied Brar’s long involvement since the 1960s was not restricted to his political opponents. In the late 70s, the politically active East London IWA branch had been very dismissive of Harpal Brar being allowed back into membership of IWA, and appointment as National Organiser of the IWA (GB) and editor of the monthly publication Lalkar.

In the post unity period, Harpal Brar retained an independent political existence of the IWA.

There was the fleeting episode when the AIC published a “Statement of Aims”[28] with the Association of Communist Workers as a basis for drawing together Marxist-Leninists with the aim of forming a “genuinely revolutionary Communist Party”. Obviously the shadow of Brar lay behind the statement:

“The party shall defend the gains of October and refute all slanders against the undisputed correct leadership of the CPSU during the period of socialist construction.”

The orthodoxies of Marxism-Leninism (and Stalinist) politics were defended. Brar’s entire anti-revisionist career was rooted in the defence of Stalin. Apart from the contemporary references to the struggle of the Irish people for national self-determination” it was a document that could have been drafted in the 1940s.  In 1991, Harpal Brar was a founder member and became chair of the Stalin Society. His writings marks Brar as an unapologetic admirer of Stalin.

The Association of Indian Communists and the Association of Communist Workers – two organisation with Brar in their leadership – took the decision to disband in 1996 and merge into a single organisation called the Association of Communists GB. Ella Rule, long-time associate of Brar’s, was the secretary of the AoC , whose membership went beyond Punjabi males. However, within a month of its foundation, Avtar Jouhl and others left the group due to (it should be stated long existing) ideological differences in February 1997.

The independent existence of the AoC became murky and less obvious when Brar and followers then joined the Socialist Labour Party. Founded in May 1996, the re-establishment (the original Socialist Labour Party, was formed in 1903) of the party, by miner leader, Arthur Scargill, came after Tony Blair’s ‘New’ Labour abandoned its Clause IV symbolic of commitment to progressive change for socialism in Britain. The principles of the SLP are summarised in clause four of its constitution, to ‘secure for the people a full return’ for the wealth and services they generate.  In March 1997 the AoC had agreed to support Socialist Labour Party candidates at the General Election. Harpal Brar stood for the SLP in Ealing South finishing fourth with 2,107 votes. He stood again in 2001 and received 921 votes. Brar was equally unsuccessful in European Parliamentary and London Assembly elections.

Brar and his comrades worked to bring what they described as an Anti-Revisionist Marxist-Leninist programme to the SLP, but were eventually expelled seven years later.

 In May 2004, Brar was among 13 expelled from the Socialist Labour Party after simmering and open conflict as party leader Arthur Scargill opposed calls for “greater links with the Workers’ Party of Korea”. In July at the Saklatvala Hall in Southall, Harpal Brar was founder-Chairman of the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) . Lalkar continued to be published as an anti-imperialist journal, co-existent with Proletarian the bi-monthly journal of the CPGB-ML . [29]

In its heyday the IWA (GB) was able, in its time, to organise demonstrations of tens and hundreds of thousands of workers, and regularly held meetings of 4-5,000 members and supporters, throughout the country. Harpal Brar, reflecting on the history of the IWA (GB) as the Greenwich & Bexleyheath branch celebrated the 50th anniversary of its founding, observed:  “Guided by the IWA, the Indian community took a stand against black separatism and took its stand on the communality of interests of the working class. We mobilised to prevent the National Front from holding an ‘Election Rally’ in Southall in 1979, where the police defended the racists, beat hundreds of demonstrators, and murdered the anti-racist campaigner, a teacher from New Zealand, Blair Peach.”[30]

The IWA (GB) had to its record a long list of case work, welfare and social work, campaigning against state racism, miscarriages of justice and racist violence. It had provided platforms from those denied a voice such as Gerry Adams M.P. under a broadcast ban from British TV, and contingents of IWA members demonstrated in support of the striking miners, against communalism in India and in solidarity with Vietnam and later Cuba. The driving force behind much of this visible radicalism was the lesser known work of Indian born communists who made their home in Britain.

lpsj20_01_01l

APPENDIX

In one of their pamphlets the IWA set out the following position on imperialism and racism which relies on Marxist and Marxist Leninist analysis. This is a precis of the relevant parts: because of the system of imperialism it was possible for the bourgeoisie of certain Western countries through the superexploitation of the colonised peoples to make super-profits. A part of these profits they used to ‘bribe their own workers’ in order ‘to create something like an alliance … between the workers of the given nation and their capitalists against the other countries’. With the crisis in imperialism, and the attendant need to reduce the wage bill through wage cuts and redundancies in order to remain competitive, its necessary to convince the working class that it

is the black immigrants who are bringing about the deterioration in their living conditions. The task of doing this belongs to the fascists and it is

‘relatively easy for them to spread racialism because over the centuries racist propaganda has been implanted in the minds of the working class by the colonialists and the imperialists in order to maintain the super-exploitation and plunder of the peoples of Asia, Africa and Latin America. The anti-black propaganda of the fascists is not an end in itself but a means to an end; the end is, through creating divisions, to smash the working class movement and its organisations with a view to serving the interests of state-monopoly capital.(‘Smash Racialism and Fascism’ July 1976).

The IWA (GB) therefore consider the task of fighting racism to be inseparable from the creation of a strong united working class movement. Because of this, as well as organising around specific campaigns to do with racial discrimination of every kind, the IWA has put much of its effort into organising within the labour movement.

Although the IWA consider the labour movement to be central to fighting racism since they see racism in class terms, at the same time they recognise that many working class white people are racists and consider this to obscure the class nature of racism. Because many white workers have been corrupted and brainwashed as described above and because black workers, through their struggle against imperialism in their own countries and their double exploitation in this country have become more aware, black workers must take up the initiative of fighting the enemy, the capitalist class, not only for themselves but also for white workers. Many white workers would join them in this struggle.

The IWA also recognize that black people who are not workers are nevertheless the victims of racism and must not be excluded from the struggle but consider the black workers to be central (Report of the General Secretary 1970). So, for the IWA, black workers, because of their particular history and class position, are the group destined to lead the fight against racism and therefore black workers have to be organised and united. They also believe that this has to take place within the context of the labour movement because although the initiative for the struggle rests with black workers, success depends on white workers uniting with them.

They are therefore strong trade unionists and also welcome alliances with all other multi-racial, progressive groups.

Source: Josephides, Sasha (1981) Towards a History of the Indian Workers’ Association

iwa-7

Footnotes

[1] Their own assessment of their history can be found here  iwa_southall_booklet

[2] Sasha Josephides’ (1981) “Towards a History of the Indian Workers’ Association” Research Paper in Ethnic Relations No.18, Centre for Research in Ethnic Relations University of Warwick.

[3] For example the most apolitical cultural association is making a political point and claiming certain types of rights when it arranges a procession or a festival in the streets of London in order to celebrate a religious or cultural event.

Equally, advice centres and welfare groups although their primary function is to make sure that people know and get their rights in such areas as housing, social services and citizenship status, they necessarily become involved in political campaigns against the possible erosion of such rights and in struggles which aim to change laws which are seen as harming their clients.

[4] Avtar Jouhl’s weblog: https://iwagb.wordpress.com/

[5] Unsubstantiated anecdotal suggestions puts membership in the two hundreds.

[6] This situation continued until 1991 when the two ‘wings’ of IWA GB reunited in one organisation.

[7] 30 years of Naxalbari — An Epic of Heroic Struggle and Sacrifice http://www.bannedthought.net/India/PeoplesMarch/PM1999-2006/publications/30%20years/part1.htm

[8] ‘Gandhi’s Visit – Protesters denounce Fascism. Class Struggle Vol.2 No.20 Nov 30-Dec 14 1978

[9] The papers of Avtar Jouhl and the Indian Workers Association 1956-2005

[10] Letter dated 28th September 1979 [Private archive] see: On the Birmingham Conference https://www.marxists.org/history/erol/uk.hightide/cwmletter2.htm

[11] Class Struggle Vol.4 No.13 June 1980

[12] The Sun, January 11th 1969

[12] The BCA was eventually to merge with the RCLB. Class Struggle May 29th to June 11 1980 (Vol. 4. No.11)

[13] The Times News team (1968) The Black Man in Search of Power .London: Nelson :156

[14] Report of the General Secretary, IWA (GB) J.Joshi, 1970: quoted in Josephides 1981: 119.  Towards a History of the Indian Workers’ Association. Research Paper in Ethnic Relations No.18, Centre for Research in Ethnic Relations University of Warwick.

[15] https://hatfulofhistory.wordpress.com/2014/06/18/before-the-unity-of-grunwick-40-years-since-the-imperial-typewriters-strike/

[16] http://www.redpepper.org.uk/biting-lions-remembering-the-grunwick-strike-40-years-on/

[17] Report of the General Secretary, IWA (GB) J.Joshi, 1970:, quoted in Josephides 1981

[18] RCLB, Anti-Racist, Anti-Fascist Internal Bulletin. April 1983. Private archive

[19] Ramamurthy , Anandi (2013) Black Star, Britain’s Asian Youth Movements. London: Pluto Press

[20] Class struggle Vol.3 No.12 June 14-27,1979 p4

[21] New Age, newspaper of the Communist Workers Movement, No.10 March 1979

[22] ditto

[23] Class Struggle Vol 14 No.7 April 1980 p6

24] Harpal Brar self-published a number of books reflecting his political analysis: Social democracy – the enemy within, Perestrokia – the complete collapse of revisionism and Trotskyism or Leninism. See http://www.cpgb-ml.org/index.php?secName=books

[25] MS 2142/12/A/1/4/12 Correspondence and Campaign files 1978-1984

[26] https://www.marxists.org/archive/saklatvala/index.htm

[27] CPGB-ML’s reply to the lies and slanders of the CPB, Issued on: 04 December 2008 http://www.cpgb-ml.org/index.php?secName=statements&subName=display&statementId=16

[28] “Communist Action” No.9 February 1996

[29] Richards, Sam (2013) The Rise & Fall of Maoism: the English Experience. Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line https://www.marxists.org/history/erol/uk.firstwave/uk-maoism.pdf

[30] https://redyouth.org/2015/09/09/indian-workers-in-britain-50th-anniversary-of-the-iwa-gb/#more-3707

 

Mabel & Robert F. Williams: Monroe to Beijing.*

One of the earliest and most important black militant leaders in the modern United States, Robert F. Williams, the civil rights activist and militant revolutionary nationalist moved to China with his wife Mabel at the invitation of Mao Zedong in 1966 at the early stages of the developing Cultural Revolution. The Williams lived in China for three years.mabel-robert

In China, Robert and Mabel visited communes and factories and spoke about the civil rights struggle in the United States. Williams was named international chairman of the Revolutionary Action Movement and elected president-in-exile of the “Republic of New Africa.” In this role, he traveled throughout the developing world building solidarity with the struggles in the USA. During the Vietnam War, the activist-in-exile met with Ho Chi Minh and made radio broadcasts to African-American soldiers against racial oppression in the United States.

Finally in 1969, the Nixon administration, desperate for knowledge of what was going inside China, offered Williams and his wife amnesty in exchange for information. The Williams agreed and returned home that year.

The journey from Monroe to Beijing, via Havana.

Robert Franklin Williams (1925–1996), the grandson of a former slave, was born in 1925 in Monroe, Union County, North Carolina. He was trained as a machinist in the National Youth Administration, and later attended West Virginia State College and Johnson C. Smith University.

In the 1940s, he moved to Detroit to work in the auto factories and it was there he met and married his wife, Mabel. Born in Monroe, NC in 1931, Mabel married Robert in 1947. Mabel Robinson Williams, (1931-2014), along with husband Robert F. Williams (1925 – 1996) led a campaign for self-defence that shaped the 1960s. Robert Franklin Williams work in partnership with Mabel having a profound influence on civil rights activists, sharpening the militancy and resistance to racial oppression.  Mabel Williams, who in her writings acknowledged the double oppression faced by black women, was sometimes asked how she felt about working in the shadow of her husband. She discussed her reaction to that question during a speaking engagement that was recorded and posted to Freedom Archives.

“The power structure used that, I think, to split up our movement,” she said. “I feel fine. I’m fighting for my rights just like he’s fighting for his. We’re fighting together for the rights of our people.”

Following a tour of duty in the segregated Marine Corps, Williams returned to Monroe in 1955. In the same year he was elected president of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). The Williams would remain committed to the struggle for civil rights the rest of their lives. They were leaders of the Monroe, North Carolina chapter of the NAACP during the 1950s until early 1961, very much involved in the struggle for Civil Rights and self-determination in Union County, North Carolina during the 1950s and early 1960s when they were targeted by local authorities and the FBI.

Williams gained national notoriety for forming rifle clubs that met racist violence with armed self-defense. The civil rights organizers became advocates of armed self-defense against racist violence perpetuated by the Ku Klux Klan and law-enforcement personnel in the city. The Williams organized a militant local chapter of the NAACP and an armed self-defense unit called the Black Guard in Monroe, hometown of segregationist U.S. Senator Jesse Helms, whose father served as police chief.

As president of the Union County NAACP, Williams not only revitalized the organization, but also began a non-violent campaign to integrate the county’s public facilities. He gained national attention for the notorious “Kissing Case,” defending two  young black boys (ages seven and nine) who were jailed for letting a white girl kiss them on the cheek. Although eventually pardoned the state refused to apologize for its harsh treatment of the boys. The attempts to integrate the public facilities, such as the swimming pool, were largely unsuccessful and often were met by violent resistance.

While organizing with the NAACP, Rob Williams also helped found the Union County Council on Human Relations, bringing the races together to work for black freedom. Mabel Williams served as secretary for the group, which eventually fell apart due to white supremacist backlash.

In 1959, after a jury in Monroe acquitted a white man for the attempted rape of a black woman, Rob Williams stood on the courthouse steps and declared the right of black people to defend themselves. As he said later at a press conference:

“I made a statement that if the law, if the United States Constitution cannot be enforced in this social jungle called Dixie, it is time that Negroes must defend themselves even if it is necessary to resort to violence.

That there is no law here, there is no need to take the white attackers to the courts because they will go free and that the federal government is not coming to the aid of people who are oppressed, and it is time for Negro men to stand up and be men and if it is necessary for us to die we must be willing to die. If it is necessary for us to kill we must be willing to kill.” (Sturgis April 25, 2014)

Repudiating the NAACP policy of passive non-resistance, Williams advocate a stronger means of self-defence. He urged that Afro-Americans arm themselves and meet white supremacists violence with violence. Williams’ stand on this question eventually forced a minor split in the NAACP because many black leaders had become increasingly impatient with passive non-resistance. Williams was temporarily suspended from the NAACP, but many in Union County heeded his advice and did arm themselves. The Black Guard mobilized hundreds of African Americans to defend their community against the racist violence of the Ku Klux Klan and the police.

His stance sparked a debate between himself and King on the efficacy of non-violence.

Following King’s refusal to join the Freedom Rides, Williams wrote in his newsletter The Crusader that many freedom riders were angered by King’s refusal to join the campaign because they, too, had suspended sentences:

“It is pathetic that some of the students are under suspended sentences and some are three and four time losers for freedom, yet they are participating. Maybe, in King’s estimation, they are just students and only stand to lose their lives or careers while he stands to lose a fortune in struggle and blood money” (The Crusader 2, no. 31 [5 June 1961]).

Williams also criticized King for wanting to “ride the great wave of publicity but not the buses” and purported that if King is the “undisputed leader as the white folks claim he is,” he needs to ride the buses or “quit the scene” (The Crusader, 5 June 1961).

Though SNCC representatives pleaded with King to join them on the Freedom Rides, he declined, citing his probation for a May 1960 traffic violation. In this telegram, Williams, who had clashed with King in 1959 over the role of self-defense in the movement, calls King a “phony” for refusing to participate and challenges him to “lead the way by example.”

Telegram from Robert F Williams to Martin Luther King

REV MARTIN LUTHER KING
208 AUBURN AVE NE ATLA

THE CAUSE OF HUMAN DECENCY AND BLACK LIBERATION DEMANDS THAT YOU PHYSICALLY RIDE THE BUSES WITH OUR GALLANT FREEDOM RIDERS. NO SINCERE LEADER ASKS HIS FOLLOWERS TO MAKE SACRIFICES THAT HE HIMSELF WILL NOT ENDURE. YOU ARE A PHONY. GANDHI WAS ALWAYS IN THE FOREFRONT SUFFERING WITH HIS PEOPLE. IF YOU ARE THE LEADER OF THIS NON VIOLENT MOVEMENT LEAD WITH WAY BY EXAMPLE. YOU ARE BETRAYING OUR CAUSE BY ATTEMPTING TO APPEASE OUR ENEMIES RIDE THE BUSES AS THE STUDENTS HAVE ASK YOU TO. IF YOU LACK THE COURAGE, REMOVE YOURSELF FROM THE VANGUARD. I PERSONALLY CHALLENGE YOU TO RIDE FOR FREEDOM. NOW IS THE TIME FOR TRUE LEADERS TO TAKE TO THE FIELD OF BATTLE

ROBERT F WILLIAMS
PRESIDENT UNION COUNTY BRANCH NAACP.

document1_span

Robert and Mabel Williams pictured in Cuban exile.

Needless to say, a militant civil rights leader urging African-Americans to form armed militias throughout Dixie did not sit very well with local politicians or law enforcement. When the Freedom Riders brought their nonviolent campaign to integrate interstate bus travel to Monroe in August1961, they were met by Klan violence and turned to Williams’ Black Guard for protection. On August 26th violence exploded. Williams and others fought back with guns. During the height of the violence, a car containing a white couple inadvertently wandered into the black neighbourhood. Williams sheltered a white couple from an angry African-American mob only to be accused later by local and state authorities of kidnapping them .Rather than risking arrest Williams fled to New York City. With interstate flight from a warrant – a federal crime – the FBI became officially involved. Williams went to Canada and then onto Cuba, with Mabel and their two sons, where Premier Fidel Castro offered him political asylum.

Cuban Exile

The exiled activists made pirate shortwave radio broadcasts to the southern United States as Radio Free Dixie, broadcasting news, music and commentary throughout the eastern United States. They also collaborated on the book “Negroes With Guns”, an important influence on Black Panther Party founder Huey P. Newton.

The Williams continued to publish The Crusader, an underground newsletter they had launched in Monroe and for which Mabel Williams drew editorial cartoons. Frazier observed that in the self-produced newsletter:crusader0365

“They highlighted the racial injustice experienced by blacks in the South, emphasizing the increasing waves of racialism that were emerging from Southern blacks, and connected these struggles to international movements against imperialism, colonialism and racial oppression.” (Manning :92)

The Crusader was widely read by an emerging generation of revolutionaries who would lead the urban rebellions and form organizations such as the Revolutionary Action Movement (RAM), the Black Panther Party and the Republic of New Africa.

From his Cuban base, Robert Williams reached out to the international community of national liberation activists and progressive expatriates and reached a worldwide leftist audience to seek support for the black liberation struggle in the United States.

Robert F. Williams, the former NAACP leader in Monroe, North Carolina and editor of the Crusader newsletter, stated in a speech on October 10, 1963, that “The same savages who rain death and destruction on the innocent women and children of Cuba, the same savages who rain death and destruction on the helpless women and children of south Viet Nam, the same savages who supply the implements of death and destruction to South Africa and Portugal, are the same who blow off the heads of little black girls in the homes and churches of Birmingham, Free World U.S.A. U.S. racism is a cancerous sore that threatens the well-being of humanity. It can only be removed and a cure effected by a surgical operation performed by the great masses of world.” ( Azikiwe  2016)

Chairman Mao Zedong, after receiving a letter from Robert Williams in 1962, responded by issuing his “Statement Supporting the Afro-American in Their Just struggle Against Racial Discrimination by US Imperialism” just days before the August 1963 March on Washington for jobs and freedom.

Mass rallies were held in China communicating their solidarity with their black brothers, and the Williams were invited to China’s 14th anniversary National day celebrations in Beijing.

Back in Havana there were deteriorating personal relations with the Cuban authorities because, Frazier explains, of the Williams criticism of anti-black racism in Cuba and their political sympathy of black nationalism; this position saw some Cuban officials refer to them as “black racists”.  (Manning :24)

NEW ADDRESS:

Robert F. Williams, 9 Tai Chi Chang, Peking, China.

In 1965, the Williams family moved to The People’s Republic of China at the invitation of Mao Zedong. They were treated like unofficial cultural diplomats and guests of the state.

In Beijing, The Crusader printing increased from 15,000 copies in Havana to 30,000 in Beijing. The Crusader’s original masthead of a sword-wielding Crusader, printed and distributed from Cuba, was replaced in the October 1966 edition, after Williams left Cuba for China, by a machine gun & flaming torch.

Their radio show was broadcast periodically to African countries, and China’s short wave radio output aimed at black Americans was increased. A documentary of their extended tour of China in 1964 was made, Robert Williams in China. There was attendance at seminars like that held to honour William Edward Burghardt “W. E. B.” Du Bois (1868-1963) a leading African-American sociologist, writer and veteran civil rights activist.

web-dubois-shirley-graham-mao

DuBois on his third visit to China was greeted by Mao Tse-tung in early 1959.

dubois-seminar                                                              Above: Celebrating the 100th birthday of Dr. W.E.B. DuBois in Peking. Left to right: Shirley Graham DuBois, editor of Freedomways; R.D. Senanayake, Secretary General of Afro-Asian Writers’ Bureau; Chen Yi, Foreign Minister of People’s China; and Robert F. Williams.

At a 91st birthday commemoration in China DuBois made a speech at a state-sponsored banquet which was broadcast through the national media. DuBois was quoted as saying that “Come to China, Africa, and look around. You know America and France and Britain to your sorrow. Now know the Soviet Union and its allied nations, but particularly know China. China is flesh of your flesh and blood of your blood. China is colored, and knows to what the colored skin in this modern world subjects its owner. In my own country for nearly a century I have been nothing but a nigger.” (“Du Bois, 91, Lauds China,” New York Times, March 5, 1959)

On China’s National Day celebration on Oct 1, 1966, Robert huey_chouWilliams, another civil rights leader and a revolutionary, was invited to speak at Tiananmen Rostrum, with Mao standing at his side. In 1971, then Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai met in Beijing with Huey Newton, leader of the Black Panther Party.

“This is the era of Mao Zedong, the era of world revolution and the Afro-American’s struggle for liberation is a part of an invincible world-wide movement. Chairman Mao was the first world leader to elevate our people’s struggle to the fold of the world revolution,” Williams said in 1967, as quoted in the article Black Like Mao: Red China and Black Revolution. In the article, the authors described how Mao’s theory inspired African-American leaders in the 1960s and ’70s, resulting in the many Maoist organizations.

robert-f-williams-with-mao-zedong

Chairman Mao Zedong signs U.S. civil rights leader Robert F. Williams’ copy of the ‘Little Red Book’ at the National Day celebrations, October 1, 1966.

In a speech given at a demonstration in Peking on Aug. 8, 1966, Robert Williams asked, and answered,

“What is the meaning of this cry BLACK POWER in a land dominated by the unmerciful power of white intruders who murdered and all but exterminated the rightful owners, the American Indians? Black Power means that black men want to have some control over their own lives, to have a respected voice in public affairs that affect them. We resent being a colonial people, treated as third class citizens in our native land. We resent being forbidden to speak for ourselves, even in black belts where we constitute as much as 85 percent of the population. We resent being deformed by a white man’s mould in a degenerate white supremacy society that derides and belittles our African heritage and make us ashamed of our ethnic characteristics. Black Power is the vehicle by which we hope to reach a stage wherein we can be proud black people without the necessity of an apology for our non-Anglo-Saxon features. The dominant society in racist America is reactionary, imperialist, racist, and decadent and we wish to disassociate ourselves from it. Black Power is a dissident force challenging the racist white power structure that is so heinously exterminating the people of Vietnam and threatening the world with nuclear destruction.” (Peking Review, Volume 9, #33, Aug. 12, 1966, pp. 24-27)

While in exile Robert Williams became the international chairman in exile of the Revolutionary Action Movement (RAM) The Revolutionary Action Movement (RAM) was the first independent Black revolutionary Marxist organization of the 1960s. Organized in 1962 by Muhammad Ahmad (Max Stanford), a close associate of Malcolm X and Queen Mother Audley Moore, RAM was a national semi-clandestine organization which articulated a revolutionary program for African Americans that fused Black nationalism with Marxism-Leninism.

Although it was not a large organization, RAM influenced a wide range of groups, including the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), the Black Panther Party, the League of Revolutionary Black Workers, and the Black Workers Congress. RAM dissolved in 1969. As Max Elbaum notes, “RAM’s significance had not resided in its organizational strength, but in its popularization of revolutionary nationalist, Marxist and Maoist ideas during a critical period of the Black freedom movement.” (Revolution in the Air :65)

Williams also served as a president-in-exile for the Black separatist organisation Republic of New Africa (RNA) that advocated the creation of an independent African-American-majority country situated in the south-eastern United States, in the heart of black-majority population. A position similar to that argued in the 1930s Comintern and the Black Belt nation position that found favour among some organisations in polemics on the Afro-American National Question and Racism   in the Maoist-inclined New Communist Movement in the 1970s.

demo

Mao’s “Statement in Support of the Afro-American Struggle Against Violence” was both a condemnation of Martin Luther King Jr.’s murder and racial oppression in the US, and an insistence that:

“The Black masses and the masses of white working people in the United States have common interests and common objectives to struggle for. Therefore, the Afro-American struggle is winning sympathy and support from increasing numbers of white working people and progressives’ in the United States. The struggle of the Black people in the United States is bound to merge with the American workers’ movement, and this will eventually end the criminal rule of the U.S. monopoly capitalist class.”  This position was at odds with a Black separatist perspective as the Chairman’s orthodox perspective was that “The Black masses and the masses of white working people in the United States have common interests and common objectives to struggle for. Therefore, the Afro-American struggle is winning sympathy and support from increasing numbers of white working people and progressives in the United States. The struggle of the Black people in the United States is bound to merge with the American workers’ movement, and this will eventually end the criminal rule of the U.S. monopoly capitalist class.”

Robert Williams travelled to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania in May 1968. Here he met with representatives from southern African liberation movements that had established logistic bases in the country.  In a visit to North Vietnam, where he met Ho Chi Minh and broadcast anti-war propaganda to black soldiers in South Vietnam.

He authored a pamphlet titled Listen, Brother! (1968), which deemed the war in Vietnam “a Honky trick worked up against the other oppressed colored people”. Filled with scenes of total devastation of “colored humanity” where bodies burned with napalm, Listen, Brother! urged African American soldiers to realize that participation in the war made them part of a “big mob of savage klansmen who maim and kill in the name of Christian democracy”. Critiquing the dominant cold war ideology of a bipolar power struggle as well as a perceived crisis in representative democracy, Williams hoped to turn cold war violence back against itself. He saw the war in Vietnam as a model for minority revolution in the US, where “black saboteurs” and “guerrilla enclaves” were a second front in the war for a lasting world black revolution. While he was criticized for advocating unpredictable revolutionary violence, Williams was also profoundly affected by the Cultural Revolution in China and turned increasingly to art and culture as a means to sustain the coming revolution. In Chinese propaganda, Williams found a model in which he could imagine the African American man and woman of his future nation, the Republic of New Africa.

Listen, Brother! pdf

 

Back to the USA

Mabel Williams and sons John and Bobby, returned to the United States in August 1969 and settled in Lake County Michigan.

Robert Williams followed soon after and was arrested on the outstanding kidnapping charge at Detroit Metropolitan Airport:

“Wearing a blue Chinese suit similar to that worn by Mao, Robert walked down the tarmac, clenched fist raised high in the Black Power salute. He was immediately taken into custody by the FBI and released on a personal recognizance bond of ten thousand dollars.” (Manning : 97)

In 1975 efforts to extradite him to North Carolina to stand trial on the1961 bogus kidnapping charges was resisted and despite a large campaign to stop Williams’ extradition, Governor William Milliken of Michigan extradited him. Following his acquittal, Williams returned to Baldwin.

In 1970-71 Rob Williams had taken a research position at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Chinese Studies. Drawing from his extensive stay in China, Williams was questioned by Allen Whiting who in turn advised Henry Kissinger shortly before Kissinger’s first trip to China in the opening of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and China.

For the next twenty years, Robert F. Williams wrote books and articles about his experiences and continued his work as a civil rights activist. He spoke at the Chicago memorial meeting for Mao Zedong  in 1976, “Chairman Mao was our brother” .In the 1980s and 1990s, Williams remained active in community affairs in Baldwin and took up the cause of Clyde Cleveland, a prisoner on death row in North Carolina. When he died in 1996, hundreds of people attended services in Detroit and New York. Civil rights leader Rosa Parks delivered his eulogy, hailing “his courage and for his commitment to freedom.”  An Obituary in The New York Times said:

Mr. Williams was a ”revolutionary black nationalist” but was never a Communist, even though he sympathized with some of Communism’s goals, said his son John.

During their time in Lake County they had engaged in community activism and Mabel continued to work tirelessly until her death on April 19, 2014. She was 82.

mabel-and-robert-f_-williams-greeted-by-mao-tse-tungIn an obituary distributed at Mabel Williams’ memorial, it described, in part, their partnership and goals: The funeral service for Mrs. Williams was held  April 25 2014.

 “Mabel and Robert worked tirelessly together as one, in their contribution to the struggle to uplift black people and marginalized humanity. It is impossible to speak of Rob Williams accomplishments and exploits in the civil and human rights struggle without simultaneously discussing the significant role this warrior woman played by his side, at his back, out in front, and behind closed doors as she followed Rob all around the world advocating and sounding the alarm for our people.” Azikiwe (April 29, 2014)

 * * *

* Heavily indebted in use of the following sources

Abayomi Azikiwe , Mabel and Robert Williams: A Legacy of Revolutionary Struggle and Community Service. The Pan-African News Wire April 29, 2014.

Abayomi Azikiwe  China and the Struggle of Oppressed Nations for Self-Determination, National Liberation and Socialism

Cold War China in the Black Radical Imagination: An Interview With Robeson Taj Frazier http://historynewsnetwork.org/article/159255

http://www.4thmedia.org/2016/10/china-and-the-struggle-of-oppressed-nations-for-self-determination-national-liberation-and-socialism/

Elbaum, Max (2006) Revolution in the Air: Sixties Radicals Turn to Lenin, Mao and Che

Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Robert Williams Speaks in Chicago. Chairman Mao Was Our Brother Says Black Liberation Fighter. https://www.marxists.org/history/erol/ncm-3/cpml-williams.htm

Speech by U.S. Negro Leader Robert Williams, at a rally on August 8, 1966 https://www.marxists.org/subject/china/peking-review/1966/PR1966-33p.htm

Frazier, Robeson Taj, “Black Crusaders: the transnational circuit of Robert and Mabel Williams” in Marble, Manning & Hinton, Elizabeth Kai (2011) The New Black History. Revisiting the second reconstruction. London: Palgrave Macmillan pp91-98

Kelly, R. & Esch, B.  “Black like Mao: Red China and Black Revolution” Souls Fall 1999

http://www.columbia.edu/cu/ccbh/souls/vol1no4/vol1num4art1.pdf

Robert F Williams: Self Respect Self Defense and Self Determination; An Audio Documentary as told by Mabel Williams. Audio CD and 84 page booklet. Produced by Freedom Archives. Distributed by AK Press.

Sturgis, Sue (2014) Remembering Southern Black freedom fighter Mabel Williams 2014

Tyson, Timothy B. (2001) Radio Free Dixie: Robert F. Williams and the Roots of Black Power.  University of North Carolina Press

Williams, Robert Franklin

The Crusader

Negroes With Guns. (1962)

Listen, Brother! (1968)

 

 

 

 

 

 

First speech by Robert F. Williams in China’s Great Hall of the People in 1968 on the third anniversary of Mao Zedong’s speech against racial discrimination in the United States and in support of African Americans in their civil rights struggles. Topics include black power; history of African Americans; President Lyndon B. Johnson; Robert F. Kennedy; and Vietnam.

The second speech by Williams pays tribute to Mao Zedong and China and addresses the topic of the revolution against race discrimination.

http://clio.lib.olemiss.edu/cdm/ref/collection/eastland/id/166

27. Distributing the Line

woodsmoke

 In April 1963, as the polemical denouncement of revisionism intensified, it was the weekly magazine New Statesman that carried an advertisement – not carried by the Communist Party’s Daily Worker – offering low-priced pamphlets, obtainable from the London bookshop Collet’s. That Chinese pamphlets were on sale in Britain indicated the deepening divisions within the international movement, and aided the open anti-revisionist opposition within the Party  who were arguing and publicising the Chinese positions at a time when the party was trying to silence and end discussion. Collet’s carried both Russian and Chinese publications.

The pamphlets were:

1) The People’s Daily editorial of December 15 1962, replying to the attacks on Chinese views made at the Bulgarian, Hungarian, Italian and Czechoslovak party congresses, and  attacking the Soviet party by name for being the first to begin the “erroneous practice of basing the congress of one party to launch an assault on another fraternal party.” The editorial bluntly formulated the Chinese challenge to the Soviets: “The question of who is right and who is wrong and who represents the truth, cannot be determined by the majority or minority at a given moment.”

2) The People’s Daily editorial of December 31 1962, on The Differences Between Comrade Togliatti and US — a vigorous and ably argued attack on revisionists not only in Rome and Belgrade, but in Moscow. The mistaken views of “some persons” on imperialism and war were pointedly linked with

Khrushchev’s Camp David talks with Eisenhower in 1959, and the Chinese claim to leadership of the anti-colonial struggle was clearly stated.

3) The People’s Daily editorial of January 27 1963. This answered Khrushchev’s claim at the East German party congress that Yugoslavia was a socialist country by challenging the Soviets and their supporters to say whether they still stood by the 81-party Moscow Statement and its condemnation of Yugoslav revisionism. A (Soviet) rapprochement with Yugoslavia, it argued, meant replacing the revolutionary Marxist-Leninist line with the “capitulationist line of revisionism.” Was not this, it asked emotionally, “a deliberate attempt to create a split in the international Communist movement?”

4) The Red Flag editorial, “Leninism and Modern Revisionism, published early in January. This article argued that those (i.e., the Soviets, among others) who attacked the Chinese thesis that imperialism was a paper tiger were themselves giving support to imperialism. Some people, it commented darkly, boasted about acting in accordance with Lenin’s principles, when in fact they were deviating from them.proposalongeneralline-cover

The response from Moscow saw an advertisement for nine Soviet pamphlets, headed by “A Reply to Peking” in the B.B.C. weekly, The Listener October 24 1963. But more importantly, the advertisement publicised that a “Soviet Booklets” office has been set up in London at Rosemary Gardens.

There was no equivalent propaganda outlet for material from China, at best there were the offices of China’s official news agency, Hsinhua and  Guanghwa , an independent company regarded as sympathetic and friendly (with unsubstantiated speculation of closer associations with Chinese authorities).However it was more focused on the Chinese community in Britain although young anti-revisionist activists would find its stock of Chinese published political material and the weekly, Peking Review .

Once the CP-sponsored Britain-China Friendship Association was neutered in the emerging split in the international communist movement in the early Sixties, outside of contacting the Chinese Embassy – and many an activists did write for political material – or writing directly to GUOZI SHUDIAN, P.O. Box 399, Peking, China, obtaining English language material from China was difficult. Access to the Chinese viewpoints and arguments were available through the publications of Foreign Languages Press, Peking, as it published (in fourteen languages) “Renmin Ribao” Editorials and Statements of the Communist Party of China. A weekly English language PEKING REVIEW – providing China’s views on current international questions, theoretical articles and important documents as well as authoritative coverage of developments in China – was airmailed to subscribers all over the world.  The distribution of such material was the problem.

READ MORE…..Distributing the Line

26. Remembering Claudia

Black History Month is celebrated in October in the UK.

These links are to commemorate the life and contribution of Claudia Jones. The brief overview on Claudia Jones’ impact in Britain is taken from The Rise and Fall of Maoism: the English Experience by Sam Richards.

claudia-funeral

Claudia’s Communism

https://www.marxists.org/history/erol/uk.secondwave/jones.pdf

Claudia Jones, communist
A presentation made to the Stalin Society by Ella Rule on 22 March 2009

http://www.lalkar.org/article/303/claudiajones-communist

Bacchra, K. (2001). “Claudia Jones, A life in exile,” by Marika Sherwood with Donald Hines, Dolin Prescod and the 1996 Claudia Jones Symposium, book review, BakraBites.

http://web.archive.org/web/20010803134041/freespace.virgin.net/k.bacchra/claudiajones.htm

Remembering Claudia

A prime example of what might have been can be seen in the case of the Trinidadian
communist, Claudia Jones. Jones arrived in Britain in 1955, driven out of America,
despite ill-health, during the McCarthy repression and almost shunned by the CPGB
despite her considerable organisational and propagandist record in the CPUSA as the
National Director of the Young Communist League. She lived in Notting Hill in west
London where she was active in campaigns to defend the black community during the
riots against them of 1958, also protesting against the racist killing of Kelso Cochrane.
Claudia was the main initiative behind the progressive, campaigning newspaper,
WestIndian Gazette, printed in London for the Black community. It provided a forum for discussion of civil rights as well as reporting news that was overlooked by the
mainstream media. Claudia worked as editor on the paper until her death.
The outbreak of fascist violence in Notting Hill in August 1958 led to the creation of the
broad front organisation: Claudia Jones and Abihimanyu Manchanda became founder
members of theNational Association for the Advancement of Coloured People, designed
to unite all those who could be united against racist violence and the institutionalised
racism of the British state at a time of rising racist attacks. Ella Rule observed,
In these circumstances, the West Indian Gazette came into its own, as a campaigning tool supporting those organising self defence and anti-racist and anti-fascist campaigns,raising money for the defence of both black and white youths who were being prosecuted for putting up resistance to fascist violence.
In her work within the Caribbean communities, Claudia Jones worked to create links
between political campaigns and cultural activities. The Notting Hill carnival is
undoubtedly Claudia Jones lasting legacy, which she helped launch at St Pancras Town
Hall in January 1959 as an annual showcase for Caribbean talent. She helped launch the
event as a response to the 1958 riots, when tensions had turned violent as racist mobs
attacked local Black residents. Using the West Indian tradition of carnival, the event was intended to create closer relations between all local communities. These early
celebrations were held in halls and were epitomised by the slogan, ‘A people’s art is the
genesis of their freedom’. Then Carnival moved around for a few years; by 1965 it took
to the streets of Notting Hill and has grown ever since, today a lasting legacy of cultural
pride in the Caribbean heritage.
In the early 1960s, despite failing health, Jones helped organise campaigns against the
1962 Immigration Act. This had made it harder for non-Whites to migrate to Britain. She aqlso campaigned for the release of Nelson Mandela, and spoke out against racism in the workplace.
She made a visit to China in 1964, a few months before her death, when she was highly
enthused by everything she saw. On her return from China she wrote:
I observed first hand with my own eyes the magnificent achievements of 15 years of
Socialist Construction and its effect on lives, agricultural industry and society of the 650 million people of the New Socialist China. I talked and spoke to many of China’s leaders– in government, in the People’s Communes, in light and heavy industry –
in the ardent revolutionary men, women, youth and children of New Socialist China who are led by the Chinese Communist Party and their world Communist leader, Chairman Mao Tse-tung… The great achievements in Socialist Construction in New China, based on its policy of Self Reliance which permeates every aspect of its society – in agriculture and industrialisation in light and heavy industry. A new morality pervades this ancient land which less than 15 years ago was engaged in a bitter, protracted anti-imperialist armed struggle to free itself from the ravages of feudalism, semi-colonialism, bureaucratic capitalism and imperialism, and achieved victory over US imperialism, the Kuomintang puppets and the Japanese militarists.”
Claudia Jones died Christmas Eve 1964, aged 49 from a heart condition and tuberculosis.
She was buried in Highgate Cemetery next to Karl Marx. In the nine years in Britain, her
progressive, anti-racist, anti-imperialist politics and her reaction to a visit to China
marked her out as a potentially influential leader of the young anti-revisionist movement.
Her early death meant that she had not cemented a relationship with the newly emergent anti-revisionist movement in Britain. She was working on the West Indian Gazette with Manchanda, [later founder-leader of the Revolutionary Marxist
-Leninist League] and mixing socially within that anti-revisionist scene.
Up to her death, Claudia Jones was still working to lay the foundations of the Campaign Against Racial Discrimination,which was to influence deeply a generation of black leftists. An African mouner at her funeral indicated what her death meant: “We have lost the only person who had qualified as the leader of the Afro-Asian Caribbean peoples in Britain.”
The anti-revisionist movement was poorer without her, and other overseas–born cadre.
The movement was poorer for their absence, their experiences, their relationship with
organisations engaged in struggles in the Third World and their abilities that in a multi-national organisation may have helped steer the young ML movement through choppier times.